Here we present a brief profile of the Ute Indian tribe, the people from the land of the sun for whom the state of Utah is named.

 

History

the Ute Indians; of the Shoshone Indian linguistic stock, were originally divided into seven nomadic, and forest-dwelling tribes which lived on vast territory in Colorado and parts of Utah and northern New Mexico prior to he arrival of the European settlers; they were the Capote, the Mouache, the Parianucs, the Tabeguache, the Uintah, the Weeminuche, and the Yampa.  

Ute, which means "land of the sun" also gave the state of Utah its name.  The Ute Indians lived in in bark covered teepee-like huts called wickiups, these were bulkier and less easy to relocate than the teepee, which they later converted to for practical reasons.  Ute clothing was made from deerskin and the fur of small animals such as minks and jackrabbits.

As it was with many of the American Indian aboriginals, the Ute's religious beliefs were based in nature, with animals serving as the central deities.  The Ute believed they were closely related to the bear, and animal which features prominently in Ute mythos.  Ute Shamans were believed to be very powerful, and in the Spring, the Ute would gather for the annual Beardance, also known as "Momaqui Mowat",  followed in the Summer by the Sundance, which was their most important social and religious ceremony.  

The Ute were very respectful of the environment, never overexploiting its resources, and they would not hunt for sport, but only for food and clothing.  Ute land included hunting grounds, along with places of spiritual importance.

The Ute were polygamous, which means the men were allowed to have several wives, this is perhaps the only thing they had in common with the Mormon settlers, with whom the Ute were often in conflict.

Whilst not being sedentary and not growing crops, the Ute way of life was greatly influenced by outsiders such as the Spanish, who introduced them to horses, which the Ute referred to as "Magic Dogs", and of course, the Mormon settlers who introduced them to agriculture.  Soon, the Ute were raising livestock, exploiting land and most importantly, thanks to the added convenience being able to ride on horseback, hunting buffalo; which they practically wiped out of existence in Ute land.  Eventually, the Ute became deft traders of both livestock and slaves, who were basically conquered enemies sold into labor.

However, things were not so with the Northern Ute or "Noochew" from Colorado, who were opposed to changing their lifestyle, and instead proceeded to raid Mormon settlers who were encroaching on Ute territory.  Unfortunately, they were defeated by the colonists, and forced to relocate onto the Uintah Valley Reservation upon orders from US President Abraham Lincoln.

This pattern was quite common with many of the First peoples who were driven from their land by European settlers, and even though the conflicts were bloody, some sought other means with which to achieve peaceful co-existence, such as the great Ute Chief Ouray, who even went to Washington with his wife Chipeta to try and stop the relocation of his tribe.  Ouray was fluent in several Native languages, and also spoke English and Spanish, his great skill at diplomacy led to the first successfully arranged treaty between the Ute and the US Government.

There are currently around 3500 Ute Indians living on the Uintah and Ouray Reservations in Utah, they own 1,300 000 acres of land on which they operate their own government, exploit their own resources,  and continue to promote their heritage.  Ceremonial dances are performed are performe throughout the year on the major reservations, and an annual PowWow is held at the Tribal Headquaters in Fort Duchesne.

See our resource page for addresses and other important contact information.

Northern Ute Indians
Southern Ute Indians
More American Indian Tribes


How to Trace Your Native American Heritage 

Gregg Howard, et al.
(1998)

 

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Last modified: December 13, 2001