'Grandfather Tree': Ute horror at the killing of a Heritage Tree

Richard Stoffle, Alden Naranjo, Chris Sittler, Kelly Slivka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper illustrates that epistemological barriers can stand in the way of communication about, and understanding of, natural heritage resources. This common problem becomes explicit by using the 2017 killing of a living Ute 'Grandfather Tree' in Delta, Colorado. The 260-year-old tree, which was recognised as culturally central to the three Ute Indian Tribes and the people of the State of Colorado, was cut down while still alive by the Delta County Historical Society. Communication about this action was short, one-sided, and clouded by the contrasting beliefs of the two parties: i.e., to Euro-Americans the tree was just wood without rights, while to the Ute people the tree was a living grandfather with full rights to exist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-49
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Intangible Heritage
StatePublished - 2018


  • 'Living Grandfather Tree'
  • Colorado
  • Colorado Native Americans
  • Delta
  • Delta County Historical Society
  • Environmental heritage communication
  • Epistemological divide
  • Settler colonialism
  • Ute Indian Culture
  • Ute Indian tribes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation
  • Cultural Studies
  • Museology


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