Friends of the Ute Indian Museum and Cosme Duarte, local native turned artist and activist, are keen on keeping a Native American reservation warm this winter, and Montrose can help in those efforts.

The Ute Indian Museum is accepting coats, at sizes for all ages, until Nov. 27. Coat donations (and monetary funds towards the drive) can be made during business hours — Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. — 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday, 11 a.m. — 4 p.m.

Also, monetary donations can be made to Duarte through his Facebook page, Sky Walker, for a relief supply and dried goods fundraiser.

Once the coats are received and ready to distribute, Duarte will hand them out over the next few days to the Ute Mountain Ute nation outside of Cortez in Towaoc.

Duarte, a Native American and now a board member with the organization, came and presented his intent for the drive to Friends board members, who were quickly on board with the project. (The Friends organization has helped the museum with numerous projects and advancements over the years.)

“We are very excited and very supportive of his project,” Friends Vice President Lu Anne Tyrrell said. “I think it’s very innovative and we commend him.”

The Carhartt Company, which has donated coats in the past, usually donates around $10,000 worth of new coats to the drive. That trend of giving continued this year as the company has issued about $2,000 worth of donations.

Duarte, a Native American who grew up in Montrose, has formed partnerships with Carhartt in recent years. The coat drive, he said, is another way to give back and spread awareness of Native American history.

“One of the nicest things you can do for someone is give them a jacket when they’re cold,” Duarte said. “A lot of these Native American nations living here in Colorado, they are really rural.”

Over the last few years, donations have been made to the Navajo and Pueblo nations. This year, the team “really wanted to do something for the Utes,” Duarte said.

“A lot of these people don’t have the ability to ask for help,” Duarte said. “That’s one of the things I’m really trying to do is build the awareness, especially of the people in Montrose and the Uncompahgre Valley. Build some awareness so that we can build some bridges between the Ute nations and the people who live there now — just make a better world for tomorrow.”

Montrose isn’t the lone drop off location for the drive. Denver and Los Angeles also have locations where coats are donated, fulfilling a need exacerbated by the pandemic.

“There’s just such a need there, now more than ever with COVID and what’s going on,” Tyrrell said.

“I try to put these physical acts together because a lot of the Native Americans in these reservations are very, very poor,” Duarte said. “The elders don’t even have running water… when you’re on a reservation, it’s very hard to make outside contacts.”

So far, Montrose has done its part.

“We’ve had a great response,” said Duarte, who mentioned several financial donations from the community.

The Ute Indian Museum is located at 17253 Chipeta Road.

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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