The Ute Tribe - Roaming the Rockies
important tribe of the Shoshonean
the Ute were related linguistically to the Paiute, Chemehuevi, Kawaiisu,
and Bannock tribes. They were originally divided
into seven nomadic and forest-dwelling tribes including the Capote, the
Mouache, the Parianucs, the Tabeguache, the Uintah, the Weeminuche, and
the Yampa. When European explorers and settlers first pushed westward, the
Ute occupied the entire central and
west portions of
the east portion of
Utah, and the
upper portion of the San Juan region of
Ute, which means "land
of the sun" also, gave the state of
its name. The bands were scattered over an area comprising some 150,000
square miles, subsisting on wild game, fish, nuts, berries, and greens.
They first lived in wickiups before they later adapted the use of the
teepee from the Plains tribes, making for easier movement.
Ute practiced polygamy, with a man often marrying sisters or adding
the widow of a brother to his wifely "harem.” Their religious beliefs
were based in nature with an animalistic type of worship. Believing
they were closely related to the bear, the Utes gathered every Spring
for the annual Bear Dance, also known as "Momaqui Mowat.” They also
gathered in the Summer for the Sun Dance, their most important
ceremony. During this event, participants would fast for four days in
the Sun Dance Lodge, undergoing a quest for spiritual power.
Ute Tipi, 1915, by William J. Carpenter.
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photographic prints and
dramatically when the Spanish introduced them to horses, which the Ute
referred to as "magic dogs.” Later, the Mormon settlers also
introduced them to agriculture which changed their lifestyle once
again. The Northern Utes; however, resisted agriculture, not wanting
to settle in one place. The Utes also became involved in the trading
of horses as well as in the slave trade.
They were always a
warlike people, and when they acquired horses, it intensified their
aggressive character. They soon became respected warriors and feared
enemies, often engaging in raiding parties. As more and more Mormon
settlers invaded their lands, the Northern Utes began to raid those
many settlers, leading to the Walker War in 1853.
The first treaty with the Ute, one of
peace and amity, was concluded December 30, 1849. In October, 1861,
the Uintah Valley was set apart for the Uinta tribe, but the remainder
of their land was taken by the government. Two years later, in 1863,
the Tabeguache were assigned to a reservation. Another treaty signed
in March, 1868, created a reservation in
the Tabeguache, Moache, Capote, Wiminuche, Yampa, Grand River, Uinta,
again with the remainder of their lands relinquished to the
government. Over the next few years, the reservation lines would
change as portions of the treaties were repealed and lands restored to
the public domain.
In 1870, one of the greatest leaders of
Chief Ouray, traveled with his wife to Washington, D.C. hoping to save
his people and their lands. However, his efforts would ultimately be in
between 1865 and 1880.
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July, 1879, about 100 men of the White River Agency in
roamed from their reservation into south
hunt. During this time, a forest fire was started by railroad men which
resulted in a great loss of timber. Blamed on the Ute, the Indians
were ordered back to their reservation, where they were to remain. In
September of that year, Indian Agent
Nathan C. Meeker was
assaulted after a quarrel with a
Ute man. In turn, he requested military aid which was granted. Orders were
then issued for the arrest of certain Utes charged with the recent forest
fires and Major Thornburgh was sent into the area with a force of 190 men.
Suspecting the outcome, the Indians
armed themselves and informed Meeker that the appearance of the troops
would be regarded as an act of war. On September 29, 1879, before they
arrived, the Indians
attacked the agency, burned the buildings, and killed Meeker and nine of
his employees. Meeker's wife, daughter, and another girl were held as
captives for 23 days. The event is known as the
Soon, U.S. troops arrived in masse and
the Ute were forced back on their reservations. With the possible
exception of the Ghost Dance outbreak of the
Sioux in 1890, the massacre
was probably the most violent expression of Indian
resentment toward the reservation system.
Two years later, all of the Ute had been
removed to reservation lands in Utah and Colorado.
Today, the Utes
have diversified to include a number of different income sources for the
reservations including farming, ranching, oil, gambling, and tourism. Each
reservation operates its own government which continue to promote their
of America, updated March, 2017.
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