The former director of Utah’s Division of Indian Affairs, fired in February by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, has found new employment—this time with his tribe, whose officials had objected openly to his abrupt termination.
Forrest Cuch, who had served more than 13 years in the state position, said he has been hired as CEO of Ute Tribal Enterprises, which comprises non-petroleum related businesses on the 1.3 million acre-Uintah and Ouray Reservation, Fort Duchesne, Utah.
“It is an exciting chapter in my life, and I am looking forward to the challenge,” said Cuch, whose first day on the new job will be August 23.
In addition to Ute Tribal Enterprises, the Ute Indian Tribe operates businesses that include Uinta River Technology, water systems, a supermarket, gas stations, a bowling alley, tribal feedlot, and others.
Cuch was fired as head of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs at the end of the work week February 24, when his phone was de-activated, his computer was locked down, and he was told to gather up his things.
Although the Utah governor’s office said Cuch was terminated for performance issues, Cuch cited a number of conflicts in play at the time, including the status of some Ute lands, a controversial public transit substation location, a water rights struggle in western Utah, and others.
In a letter to the governor, the tribe said the abrupt firing was “not in the spirit of maintaining a government-to-government relationship with Native Americans and will not be accepted by the Ute Indian Tribe.”
Shirlee Silversmith, Dine’, was appointed in June as Cuch’s replacement as head of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs.