Telski’s Marketing Director, Mike Hess, gave Rollingbears a season’s pass and said, “we’d like to have you on our staff.” The Indian and the Olympian replied, “We’d like to start a Native Ski Program.” It was fertile ground for such a program thanks to Telski’s French Ski School Director, Annie Savath, who for the 10 years before NVF had been inviting kids from the nearby Navajo Rez Schools to ski one weekend a year. Oprah Winfrey, who owned a lodge in Telluride, had helped fund an “Inner city/Native American ski weekend” in the early ‘90’s. Meanwhile Rollingbears and Chaffee fell in love. 4 weather “coincidences” later, including being invited to assist Kansan farmers, (friends of Bob Beer, the supportive editor of “Telluride Daily Planet”), who were on the verge of losing their farms from the worst drought in 120 years. When Chaffee saw the big black cloud coming following Rollingbears live radio ceremony, she realized that “Mother Earth really listens.” Becoming aware of the need for intercultural understanding and its far-reaching ecological implications, she found herself dedicating her life to NVF’s mission.
Later she learned that Vail, pioneered by Pete Seibert, a 10th Mt Division hero from Aspen, had since the ‘60’s, started inviting Ute spiritual leaders to lead snow ceremonies to save them. In the last decade Aspen, Durango Resort, Steamboat, as well as resorts around Lake Tahoe, have all experienced similar snow blessings. That what many of our ancient ancestors used to know how to do.
Ministers Apologizing Following the weather coincidences, Suzy learned from her brother Mark’s Pentecostal newsletter, in 1996, “that ministers have been expressing tearful apologies to Native Americans at Stadium gatherings across America (including Cortez and Sand Creek, Co), for misinterpreting their religion, stealing their lands (2 out of 400 treaties honored), and killing over 40 million Native peoples in North America, including with painful, small pox-laced blankets.”
Chaffee saw the light, thanks also to researching the Ancient Greek Games in Olympia, and her teammate, Boris Said, inviting her to his filming of the “Mystery of the Sphinx” in Egypt. Chaffee, as well as Bill Bradley and Muhammad Ali, whom she worked to unite world athletes to successfully return the integrity of the Ancient Games to the Modern, realized that Native Americans carry the earth-honoring wisdom of our ancient ancestors (Celts, Italy’s Eutruscans, French Catars…) that had been genocided out of us in the Roman Empire and Inquisition. Attending Rollingbears sweat lodge, where she became aware of the Ute Spirits of the valley, and that by doing positive things the people of Telluride could together heal the Ute curse, she talked to a Southern Ute leader, Eugene Naranjo, who was participating at the Carradine Family’s “Wild West Days” in Telluride. (Keith is a NVF supporter). Suzy asked, “How would the Utes like to start a healing here?” A few week later he responded, “The Ute Nation would like to have a celebration of unity for the benefit of all our children.” Telluride’s First Event In 1997, NVF assisted Telluride in inviting the “Blue Sky People” back to their ancestral lands in the “Shining Mountains” to share the joy of skiing at a “Welcome Home Ute Celebration” weekend. At the ceremony the Mayor, Judge, and Telski’s owner Ron Allred spoke from the heart to 30 tribal leaders, Elders, dancers and children.
Following an exchange of gifts, many had tears of hope when they were asked to join the magnificent “Ute Heritage Dancers” (who performed at the Goodwill Games in St Petersburg, at Gorbechev’s request), in a Friendship Circle Dance. NVF Ambassador Ross Anderson The Ignacio based Southern Utes invited Ross Anderson, a Cheyenne-Apache-Arapahoe speed skier, as he is a beautiful role model for kids of both cultures. He reverently carries the stones of Mother Earth with him and prays for the safety of fellow competitiors.“I’m here to help these youth become champions so that one they they can someday beat my record (140 mph),” he said. (in the video docu promo on this website)
A member of the Native American Sports Council, Ross went on to become NVF’s Ambassador and to pioneer the program at Durango Mountain Resort and become the “Fastest American on Skis,” and second in the world in 2001.
After the Olympics, Chaffee gave sports clinics in the ghettos with summer athletes, and found the real Olympic high was giving back. This work with NVF is her way of giving back and to insure that Natives and all youth the magical opportunities that she has in life. As a pioneer of snowdancing, teaching Natives to dance down their sacred ancestral mountains, touches a deep chord. Plus skiing in Vermont connected her to her intuitive voice. Just riding a ski lift after a snowfall, I say to myself, “This is why God put us on the planet,” said Suzy.
Her first coach, Joe Jones, a beautiful Abenaki skier, whom her father Keen gave his first lesson, went on to inspire her and 4 other Vermonters on the road to the Olympics. “This all started when my dad and grandfather, (my ancestors restocked deer in Vermont in the 1860’s), came back with wild stories after fishing and hunting with the Mic Macs and Allegehanies in Canada,” said Suzy. Coincidentally, she was born the day of the Sand Creek Massacre, the most barbaric moment in US history, the day St Francis, her guide, the great white Indian, was made a Saint (Chaffee made a pilgrimage to Assisi), and the day the BIA made a quiet apology to Native Americans in 2000.
“As a Unity Leader of Colorado for 13 years, I could see that working with Suzy and skiing could greatly accelerate our dream for all Creator’s children. She has done a great job. My son Keeton and I have even taken up skiing together. I named the foundation, Native Voices, because it is time for our voices to be heard. I’d also like to see unity of all Indigenous tribes.” (The Prophesy of uniting the People of the Eagle and the Condor
– North and South America – starting coming together in the summer of 2000. Aspen eco pioneers Michael and Christine Morehart, who have a ranch on the Argentine Pampas, had given Chaffee a Condor feather, which she pulled out just as an eagle flew over their Navajo ceremony. The Moreharts wanted to thank the nature spirits along the Roaring Fork river, as they were leaving, for 10 blissful years on the land. See “Bridges to Argentina” for more details to follow.)