His­toric, cen­turies-old cottonwood tree set to be­come a me­mo­rial

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST -

GRAND JUNC­TION» A cottonwood tree that pro­vided shade for the Ute tribes of western Colorado be­fore the ar­rival of white set­tlers has grown rot­ten and un­sta­ble and must be trimmed into a me­mo­rial that rec­og­nizes its once-im­pos­ing stature.

The Ute Coun­cil Tree in the western Colorado town of Delta is be­lieved to be about 215 years old. But the cottonwood can no longer be con­sid­ered safe, The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junc­tion re­ported.

The Delta County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety said the last sur­viv­ing limb fell on a wind­less morn­ing Aug. 1.

The Ute tribes whose fore­bears lived in western Colorado be­fore 1881, when the re­gion was opened up for set­tle­ment, will be con­sulted about what steps to take next, Jim Wet­zel, di­rec­tor of the Delta County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety Mu­seum, said Fri­day. “Cul­tur­ally, it’s im­por­tant to the Utes,” Wet­zel said. There are some who say the tree was a meet­ing place for Utes and the set­tlers, but Wet­zel said he has found no ev­i­dence to sup­port that claim.

It could be, how­ever, that Utes met there to dis­cuss such things as treaties with the United States, but no doc­u­ments were signed un­der the tree’s shade, he said. Most of those events took place in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., he said.

The tree, which once was part of a cottonwood gallery along the Gun­ni­son River on the east side of Delta, has with­ered over the last 25 years, hav­ing lost all but its crown.

The lower trunk was filled with con­crete in 1961, but it’s be­come clear that the tree core has been hol­lowed out with rot, the so­ci­ety said.

David Bai­ley, cu­ra­tor of his­tory for the Mu­se­ums of Western Colorado, said he hoped a cut­ting from the coun­cil tree could be planted nearby as a liv­ing trib­ute to the Utes and their his­tory.

About 10 feet of the trunk will re­main as a me­mo­rial, Wet­zel said.

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