Governor Cummings Gets An Earful

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.

After meeting with the Uintah and Wampa Utes in the late summer of 1866, Alexander Cummings, Colorado’s new Territorial Governor, met with the Tabeguache Utes. He found them in “quite a bad humor.”
          The Tabeguache “make very grave allegations against the government…,” Cummings reported, “They assert, roundly, that the treaty by which it is now claimed that they are bound is not the treaty to which they agreed.”
          The Tabeguache said the government had changed the boundaries of the lands that were to be their reservation.  They were right.
           When the treaty was sent to the United States Congress for ratification (approval), Congress changed the terms of the agreement. The changes were sent back to the Tabeguache Utes for agreement and signature. However, they did not receive a copy of the revised agreement. Instead the Utes received, according to Cummings, a document stating “that certain words in given lines be stricken out, and other words substituted…making it difficult, if not impossible even for an intelligent reader without the treaty before him to understand…”
          “The Utes argument that they did not understand the changes was credible,” Cummings stated. He also reported their complaints that the “compensation for their lands as set forth in the present treaty is not what was agreed upon.” The Utes said the numbers of livestock they were to receive had been reduced. The period for payment of annuities was reduced from fifteen years to five years.
          Cummings noted, “what is quite remarkable is…the interpreters agree with [the Utes], as does also Major L. Head, their agent, in these assertions.”
          The Tabeguache leaders told Cummings “the Great Father at Washington” [the President of the United States] sent “soldiers with all the means of a terrible war” to intimidate them into agreeing to a treaty. Despite this action, the Utes said “they would have reconciled themselves to the terms of the treaty” if the government had at least lived up to the agreement as the government had revised it.

Photo courtesy Colorado State Archives.
Quoted text from Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1866


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