SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders of the Ute tribe pulled out of the annual Native American Summit in Utah, saying they want state government to treat the tribe as a sovereign nation.

Tribal leaders outlined their concerns in a letter delivered during the summit last week, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (

The tribe’s business committee said it has been voicing the concerns for several years.

“Hopefully this gives them a message to say, ‘Look, we’re here.’ But at the same time, we’re not going to continue to do this,” tribe councilman Shaun Chapoose said.

Even at the summit designed to foster cooperation between tribes and the state, the opening speech by Gov. Gary Herbert referred to working with the federal government on oil and gas development on tribal lands, Chapoose said.

The Fort Duchesne-based tribe has its own relationship with the federal government and doesn’t need the state acting on its behalf, he said.

“We’re well-adapted to determine our own future, and we’re willing to take the leap forward,” Chapoose said. “We have nothing to lose, because basically the only one who is going to protect us is ourselves.”

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said the Utes have been absent from prior summits, and he was surprised by their withdrawal because he thought a meeting with the tribe chair has been productive.

“I felt we had a window where we could make progress,” Cox said.

The Ute Tribe is one of eight federally recognized tribes in Utah. It has nearly 3,000 registered members.

The tribe also takes issue with Herbert’s stance opposing Bears Ears National Monument.

Native American tribes were among those urging the federal government to protect the red rock plateaus, canyons and ancient ruins in southern Utah.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended reducing the size of the monument.

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,