Taking the Census: The Name “Chipeta”

Many people ask the meaning of Chipeta’s name. Various sources suggest diverse meanings including: White Singing Bird, Charitable One, The Jewel, Spring of Clear Water, and Rippling Water.
          United States census records suggest it is a Spanish name. The 1860 census for Bernalillo County, New Mexico Territory lists Chipeta Baca, born 1825 in Mexico. Living in Texas, at the same time, with a slightly different spelling of the name, was Chipita Gonzales, born 1800 in Mexico. These women were born long before Chipeta wife of Ouray.
          Further play with spelling revealed the more common version of this name: Chepita. In 1860 there were 5 Chepita’s in New Mexico Territory and 19 in Texas (15 of whom were born in Mexico).
          “Meaning of Names” sites list Chefa, Chepita, and Josefa among the many Spanish feminine variants of Joseph.
          Perhaps Ouray gave his Ute bride a special name. He spent much of his youth living with a Mexican family where he learned to speak fluent Spanish. As was customary for Indian children living with Spanish families (as slaves or as part of the family) Ouray was baptised and trained in the Catholic religion. Chepita would have been a popular name in Catholic Nuevo Mexico province.

Published in: on May 10, 2010 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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