“We Won’t Go,” said the Utes

Honoring the 150th Anniversary of Colorado Territory (officially formed February 28, 1861), this series of posts offers a brief glimpse into Indian affairs during the terms of the seven territorial governors.

When Alexander Cummings became Governor of Colorado Territory, he quickly discovered the Ute Indians were not happy.
          “When I arrived in the Territory in October 1865…my predecessor had but just returned from his interview with the Tabeguache, to whom he had given annuities of goods and stock. He was under the impression that the Indians…had resolved to go across the mountains toward or into their reservation.”
          To his surprise, Cummings found “that the Tabeguaches never had much idea of going to their reservation, or, if they had, they very soon abandoned it.”
          Cummings reported that he met with the Uintah and Yampa (Green River) bands of Utes. His purpose was to convince them to give up their current land and to join the Tabeguaches on a reservation agreed to in the 1863-64 treaty.
          “I took with me to this meeting…a quantity of provisions and cattle, and part of the goods which had been stored in Denver for a year or two past,” Cumming reported. “I met with Indians under very favorable circumstances; found them in a very good humor…but I soon learned that they were utterly averse to parting with the lands in question, and also unwilling to even entertain the proposition of permitting roads to be made through their grounds.”
           Drawing a map in the dirt, Cummings showed the Unitah and Yampa leaders certain areas of land they claimed to be theirs which the Tabeguache had sold to the government in the recent treaty. “This exasperated them very much…They said the Tabeguaches had never sold these lands, but if they had done it they had no right whatsoever to do so. They said the country that they were now occupying was their own hunting ground…and that no power should disturb their possession of it.”
          Cummings attempted to convince the Uintah and Yampa to “abandon their claim and go over to the White River to a reservation in the immediate vicinity of the Tabeguache reserve.” The Uintah and Wampa (sic) leaders refused. Cummings pushed this idea so hard that he began to fear for his own safety.
          “They are quite intelligent,” Cummings said of these Utes, “and point with great earnestness to the condition of all the places where the whites have obtained a foothold. And they say with great force that if roads and settlements are allowed to be made in their present hunting grounds, which is all that is left to them, the game will vanish and they will soon be left to starvation.”
          “These bands, the Uintahs and the Wampas (sic), are a quiet, peaceably-disposed people: say they want to live on friendly terms with the whites…”
          Cummings did make a treaty with the Uintahs and Yampas in August 1866 but it was never ratified by Congress.

Photo courtesy Colorado State Archives
Text from Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1866

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