The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is one of three federally recognized tribes of the Ute Nation, and are mostly descendants of the historic Weeminuche Band who moved to the Southern Ute reservation in 1897.
Official Tribal Name: Ute Mountain Tribe of the Ute Mountain Reservation
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
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State(s) Today: southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico and small sections of Utah
The Ute Indians, for whom the State of Utah is named, ranged across the Colorado Plateau for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the white man. There were originally seven Ute tribes located in and around the Rocky Mountains. These were the Uintah, the Yampa, the Grand River, the Tabaguache, the Mouache, the Capote and the Weeminuche. These tribes were scattered over an area comprising some 150,000 square miles.
Two thousand years ago, the Utes lived and ranged in the mountains and desert over much of the Colorado Plateau: much of present day eastern Utah, western Colorado, northern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico. The use of lands in the Four Corners area, where the Ute Mountain Ute tribe now live, though, came later.Most anthropologists agree that Utes were established in the Four Corners area by 1500 A.D.
The Ute people are the oldest residents of Colorado, inhabiting the mountains and vast areas of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Eastern Nevada, Northern New Mexico and Arizona. Archeologists say ancestors of the Ute appear to have occupied this area or nearby areas for at least a thousand years. According to tribal history, they have lived here since the beginning of time.
Ancestors of the Utes were the Uto-Aztecs, who spoke one common language; they possessed a set of central values, and had a highly developed society.
The Utes settled around the lake areas of Utah, some of which became the Paiute, other groups spread north and east and separated into the Shoshone and Comanche people, and some traveled south becoming the Chemehuevi and Kawaiisus. The remaining Ute people became a loose confederation of tribal units called bands. The names of the bands and the areas they lived in before European contact are as follows:
The Mouache band lived on the eastern slopes of the Rockies, from Denver south to Trinidad, Colorado, and further south to Las Vegas, New Mexico.
The Caputa band lived east of the Continental Divide, south of the Conejos River and in the San Luis Valley near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. They frequented the region near Chama and Tierra Amarilla. A few family units also lived in the shadow of Chimney Rock, now a designated United States National Monument.
The Weenuchiu occupied the valley of the San Juan River and its north tributaries in Colorado and Northwestern New Mexico. The Uncompahgre (Tabeguache) were located near the Uncompahgre and Gunnison, and Elk Rivers near Montrose and Grand Junction, Colorado.
The White River Ute (Parianuche and Yamparika) lived in the alleys of the White and Yampa river systems, and in the North and middle park regions of the Colorado Mountains, extending west to Eastern Utah. The Uintah lived east of Utah Lake to the Uinta Basin of the Tavaputs plateau near the Grand and Colorado River systems.
The Pahvant occupied the desert area in the Sevier Lake region and west of the Wasatch Mountains near the Nevada boundary. They inter-married with the Goshute and Paiute in Southern Utah and Nevada. The Timonogots lived in the south and eastern area of Utah Lake, to North Central Utah. The Sanpits (San Pitch) lived in the Sapete Valley, Central Utah and Sevier River Valley. The Moanumts lived in the upper Sapete Valley, Central Utah, in the Otter Creek region of Salum, Utah and Fish Lake area; they also intermarried with the Southern Paiutes. The Sheberetch lived in the area now known as Moab, Utah, and were more desert oriented. The Comumba/Weber band was a very small group and intermarried and joined the Northern and Western Shoshone.
Today, the Mouache and Caputa bands comprise the Southern Ute Tribeand are headquartered at Ignacio, Colorado. The Weenuchiu, now known as the Ute Mountain Utes are headquartered at Towaoc, Colorado. The Tabeguache, Grand, Yampa and Uintah bands comprise the Northern Ute Tribe located on the Uintah-Ouray reservation next to Fort Duchesne, Utah.
Following acquisition of Ute territory from Mexico by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo the United States made a series of treaties with the Ute:
- 1849 treaty of peace
- 1863 treaty relinquishing the San Luis Valley
- Treaty with The Ute March 2, 1868 by which the Ute retained all of Colorado Territory west of longitude 107° west and relinquished all of Colorado Territory east of longitude 107° west.
- Treaty with the Capote, Muache, and Weeminuche Bands establishing the Southern Ute Reservation and the Mountain Ute Reservation
Reservation: Ute Mountain Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land
Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation in southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico and small sections of Utah.
Tribal Headquarters: Towaoc, Colorado
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Bands, Gens, and Clans
Related Tribes: Most of the Ute Mountain Utes are descended from the Weeminuche band who moved to the Southern Ute reservation in 1897.
- Southern Ute Indian Tribe of the Southern Ute Reservation
- Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation,(Northern Ute)
Ceremonies / Dances:
The major events of their spiritual calendar are the Bear Dance, which is held annually in the Spring time. The Sun Dance is held annually in the middle of Summer.
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Art & Crafts:
Blankets would be made from rabbit skin. Clothing would be made of fringed buckskin.
The Utes originally lived in wickiups. These were conical, pole framed shelters that were covered with juniper bark or tule. Later they were to adapt to the tipi, which they borrowed from the Plains Tribes after they acquired horses. Women prepared and constructed the tipis, and they were also the owners of it and all the property it contained, except hunting and war weapons.
Ute in the western part of their territory, they usually lived in wickiups and ramadas; Hide tipis were used in the eastern reaches of their territory.
Prior to the arrival of the horse, the Utes travelled on foot. The travels of the nomads would be in accordance with seasonal changes. While the men would hunt, the women were busy gathering seed grasses, nuts, berries, roots and greens. The bow used by the Utes were made of cedar, chokecherry and sheep horn. Knives were made from flint.
Life changed dramatically with the arrival of the horse, acquired from the Spanish. The Ute were soon raising horses, as well as cattle and sheep. They were now also able to engage upon communal bison hunts. By 1830, however, the bison had virtually disappeared from Ute territory.
They would engage in raiding parties. They became respected warriors and feared enemies. The Utes also became involved in the trading of horses as well as in the slave trade.
Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
Shamans were powerful medicine men who , it was believed, could control the weather. The powers of the Shaman came from dreams. The Utes are a religious people who practice an animalistic type of worship.
The Utes practised polygamy. A man would customarily marry sisters. He would also take into his family the widow of his brother.
Ute Chiefs & Famous People:
- Polk, Ute-Paiute chief
- Posey, Ute-Paiute chief
- Chief Ouray – leader of the Uncompahgre band of the Ute tribe
- Chipeta – Ouray’s wife and Ute delegate to negotiations with federal government
- Raoul Trujillo – dancer, choreographer, and actor
- Joseph Rael, (b. 1935), dancer, author, and spiritualist
- R. Carlos Nakai – Native American flutist
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