Chipeta’s Legend

Stories still circulate that Chipeta rescued the hostages after the 1879 Meeker Massacre. In these tales, she jumped on her horse, rode through the night, and demanded that the Northern Utes release the captive women and children. Part of this legend comes from a poem titled “Chipeta.” The author, Eugene Field, read it at the 1882 Colorado Press Convention. The key verse about the Meeker captives reads:
          She rode where old Ouray dare not ride,
          A path through the winderness rough and wild;
          She road to plead for woman and child;
          She road in the valleys, dark and chill.
          Chipeta did play a vital role in the hostages’ release but she did her work “behind the scenes.” A Northern Ute runner brought the news. Chipeta sent another runner to bring Ouray home from hunting. She assembled the Uncompahgre chiefs ready for a council as soon as Ouray returned. Later, she talked Ouray out of going to war.
          The Northern Utes asked the other Ute bands to join them. They proposed an all-out war against the white miners and settlers who had invaded traditional Ute territory. Ouray was ill with Bright’s Disease. He knew his body was failing. Dying as a warrior in battle, rather than as a sick man confined to bed, appealed to him. Chipeta talked all night to convince him that war with the citizens of Colorado would doom the Ute people. In the end he ordered the talk of war to cease.

Published in: on October 12, 2009 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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