Meeting Chipeta, Part 3

The story that follows appeared in the The American Indian Magazine, a Journal of Race Ideals, Sept 30, 1917. It was written by Zitkala-Sa, editor of the magazine. Another story about meeting Chipeta appeared in previous posts Part 1 and Part 2

Chipeta in shawl          I…heard an amazing story. It was about my friend Chipeta. It was like a tale in a night-mare and I could scarcely believe it…This is what I heard said:
          In some way the idea was started that the Government ought to give a gift to Chipeta in grateful memory of Chief Ouray, faithful friend of…settlers and loyal advocate of obedience to Federal orders. It was to be a token of regard also to Chipeta for the valuable service she, too, had rendered.
          The plan was presented to the Great White Father in Washington and was approved.
          The question then came up as to the kind of gift that would be useful to Chipeta and at the same time suitable as a memento.
          I heard the story of the discussion and light streamed into my heart.  My fancy moved ahead of the story and I thought of the kind of gifts that were within range of possibility.
          What if the gift should be a genuine guarantee of water rights to the Ute Indians,
          …or the title to their 250,000 acres of grazing lands to be held intact for the future unallotted children [those who had not received a piece of reservation land],
          …or a message from the Great White Father giving news of Federal action against the peyote drug?
          All these things and more were needed and any one would have been a royal gift to…Chipeta. Then dimly in my ears the story went on.
          With a sudden shock I heard that the gift chosen was a pair of trading store shawls. Scarcely could I believe my ears, for was this a suitable gift with which to honor loyal service through a period of many years?
          The shawls were purchased at a little trading station [in Utah] and sent to Washington. There they were tagged as a gift from the Great White Father, in honor of the past friendship of Chief Ouray and of Chipeta to the white people. Then the shawls were reshipped to their starting point in Utah.
          With innocent joy Chipeta received them.
          At once she returned the compliment by sending the donor a large and expensive Navaho blanket. It was a free will offering, paid for by personal money and given out of the gratitude of her heart for the small token that someone in Washington had given her.
          Little did Chipeta realize that she had never really received a gift, but that without her consent she had been made to pay for the “gift shawls.”
          The bill for the shawls was sent to the government office at the Uintah and Ouray Agency where Chipeta lived. [The bill] was paid out of Ute money known as “Interest on the Ute 5% Funds.” [This was money the government had paid to the Utes for their lands that were taken from them when they were moved out of Colorado.]
          If the spirit eyes of Chief Ouray could see, his heart must be made sad. His widow had given away a beautiful blanket rug to reciprocate what she [thought was] a gift of tender sentiment.
          Poor unsuspecting Chipeta, loyal friend of the whites in the days when Indian friendship counted! …No shawl is big enough to obscure or to cover the gifts you have given freely and for which no material thing will ever repay you.

Note: Chipeta wears one of the gift shawls in the photo above.

Meeting Chipeta, Part 2

McCookThis is a continuation of a story by Zitkala-Sa about her 1917 visit to the camp of Chipeta and McCook. Read Part 1. McCook then spoke. Terse and deeply significant was his reply. “When the Great White Father in Washington sent a letter to me telling that whiskey was bad, I stopped our people from its use.” “When the Great White Father sent a letter to me telling me that gambling was bad, I forbade our people to play cards.” There was a momentary pause. I wondered what he would say next. I hoped he would say he now decided to give up the drug peyote and stop its use among his people. McCook concluded briefly. “Now the Great White Father has sent me no letter telling me peyote is bad. Therefore, as log as he permits its use, we will continue to use it.” It was with a sad heart that I returned to the Agency. A great longing filled me for some message from the Great White Father telling his red children that peyote was bad for them and asking them to refuse to use or sell it. “Chief Ouray, friend of the white man, would that your old friends might befriend your aged widow and the people whom you loved. Would that federal action might be taken before it is too late.” These were the burden of my thoughts as I rode back from my visit with Chipeta. Continued next week.

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Chipeta’s Allotment Land, Part 2

Jap Cornpeach and James McCook

Jap Cornpeach and James McCook

On 28 October 1925, Mr. P. L. Hallam, Examiner of Inheritance, took sworn statements from three Ute men regarding settlement of Chipeta’s estate. Hallam’s clerk, Marie Gilbert, served as Interpreter and also witness to the signed statements.
          The three men interviewed identified themselves as Uncompahgre Utes living near Randlett Utah.
          James McCook, age 41, was the person seeking to be named heir to Chipeta’s estate.
          Witnesses were Corass, age 74, and Sam Alhandra, age 46.
          When asked if Chipeta ever made a will, James McCook replied, “No. She just talked about making one.”
          James testified that Chipeta “raised me from the time I was a little baby.” He said his mother, Co-roo-poo-its, was a child of one of Chipeta’s sisters. He called Chipeta “grandmother.” According to James, Chipeta took him away from his mother and raised him. 
          James said Chipeta had no natural children. She had adopted James’ mother, Co-roo-poo-its, as a baby. He said, “Chipeta’s husband [Chief Ouray] was a relation of my mother [Co-roo-poo-its] and that is how they came to adopt her.” James testified that Co-roo-poo-its was not an orphan, that her mother was alive when Co-roo-poo-its became the daughter of Chipeta and Ouray.
Continued next week

Sources: Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, “Heirship and Probate, 1925 and 1926

Interviews by Examiner of Inheritance, October 1925,

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Interview with Ouray, Part 8

New-York Tribune (New York, N.Y.) October 08, 1874, page 4


Their utensils consist almost entirely of what they have bought from the whites, iron and tin ware, but some peculiarly Indian manufactures are still in use, as for instance, gourd-shaped water-jars holding from two quarts to a gallon, made of close wickerwork, well pitched [waterproofed with pine pitch], one of which it is said, takes a squaw four days to make…
          The boys practice with bows and arrows and use them largely in getting small game; but the older ones are all well armed with Sharpes and Ballard rifles and the latest improved Winchester carbines. They have plenty of cartridges, too, and always wear revolvers, so that a favorite game, something like quoits [a game like horseshoes in which flat rings are tossed at a stake], is about the only use they find for their arrows.
          The tribe possesses some 6,000 horses—and almost 600,000 dogs—fine stock, too, which they have largely captured from the Cheyenne and Arapahos, who in turn stole them from Texas ranchers and Mexican herds. They take immense pride in this wealth, and each [man] manages to have a racer in his stud, the speed of which he will bet not only his “bottom dollar,” but his bed and board, if he thinks there is the least chance of winning. I was present at one of their races—the track is always a straight one—and it was an exciting scene I assure you.
          The greatest respect is exerted from one and all toward those older or greater in authority than they.
          They are hospitable to strangers. If a poor man comes among them and by his behavior gains their respect, he is furnished with a horse and good outfit, which he is at liberty to use as he pleases so long as he remains with them; and, when he chooses to leave, he is furnished the means for his journey.

This article was written by an unidentified member of the Hayden Survey team based on his August 27, 1874 interview with Ouray.

Photo courtesy the U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library.

Interview with Ouray, Part 7

New-York Tribune (New York, N.Y.) October 08, 1874, page 4


Views among the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Camp scene. Sketching. Dr. Hayden and Walter Paris. Colorado. 1874. (Stereoscopic view)

The noises which strike your ear are equally varied, running all the way from the squealing of a poor little papoose strapped in its coffin-like cradle, or the really melodious laughter of a squaw to the hoarse whinnies of a hundred horses and the ringing report of a revolver.
          The one sound though which will attract your attention, and which you will never fail to hear, is the monotonous droning drama in the medicine man’s tent, generally accompanied by the more monotonous chanting of a series of notes in the minor key which is neither song nor howl nor chant, and which could go on endlessly if it wasn’t occasionally stopped by a yelp from the leader. The young bucks enjoy this singing and swing their bodies in time with a seriousness of countenance that is very funny to a white man.
          I have seen two different drums among them: one nothing more than buckskin tied tightly over the mouth of a jar, and the other made of raw hide stretched very tense over a broad hoop, so that the shape was that of a sieve.

This article was written by an unidentified member of the Hayden Survey team based on his August 27, 1874 interview with Ouray.

Photo courtesy the U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library with desciption as written by a Hayden photographer.

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Interview with Ouray, Part 5

New-York Tribune (New York, N.Y.) October 08, 1874, page 4


Tower Mountain, opposite Howardsville, Bakers Park. Upon its nearby perpendicular fact of 3,000 feet are exposed a number of quartz veins, traversing its whole length. The one cutting down diagonally from the left is the Mammoth lode. Most of the others are claimed as mineral-bearing veins. San Juan County, Colorado. 1874.

For the last few years the [Ute] nation had probably been decreased in numbers, especially by the ravages of small-pox, which was purposely communicated to them, it is said, by some traders with whom the Utes were unwilling to trade. Some Indians having taken the disease from the infected clothing sold them, others were advised to be vaccinated, but were instead inoculated with the disease…so the terrible story goes, by unprincipled quacks in the towns south of them. The epidemic raged with fearful power and hundreds of families were exterminated…
          For a number of years they have been supposed to live upon the reservation, which embraces some 14,000,000 acres in South-Western Colorado, and is the largest Indian reservation in the country. But the fact is that they are in its valley only in the Winter, roaming during the Summer all over the Territory, particularly in the dark country and west of Denver, where they hunt buffalo. From about the 1st of August until it is time for them to retire to their Winter quarters in the Uncompahgre Valley, they keep near their respective agencies and live on the rations which are dealt out to them by the Government.

This article was written by an unidentified member of the Hayden Survey team based on his August 27, 1874 interview with Ouray.

Photo by William Henry Jackson, with his notes, courtesy the U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library.

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Interview with Ouray, Part 1

New-York Tribune (New York, N.Y.) October 08, 1874, page 4

Los Pinos Indian Agency, Col., Aug 27

Antelope Park

This point is 47 miles west of Saguache, on the Cochetopa trail to Antelope Park, to the valley of the Cochetopa and Los Pinos creeks. [Cochetopa is a Ute word meaning “pass of the buffalo.”]
          The officer who had charge of locating the agency was instructed to put it on the Los Pinos River, 180 miles or so south-west of here, but he said: “Put it anywhere and call it Los Pinos.” So, here it is.
          The valley is eight or ten miles long and three or four wide, full of good grass and water, surrounded by high timber ed hills, and is a favorite Indian camping ground.

Hayden Team Piching Tents (from a stereographic picture). 1874. William Henry Jackson photographer.

          We—that is, the Hayden Expedition—camped at the agency about a week, occupying the time principally in making Indian pictures, but it was with the greatest difficulty that negatives could be obtained, for the redskins have a superstition that calamity will follow the photographic of groups and camp scenes, although one at a time it was safe enough. The squaws were especially superstitious about it. “Make heap Injun, heap sick,” they averred.
          But one morning, remarkable for its rare magnificence of sunrise color, as was the previous evening for its beautiful sunset, the train moved off, leaving me behind to get such mail as might come, but chiefly because I wished to “interview” Ouray, head chief of all the Ute nation, which is now a confederation of seven tribes. Through the kind exertions of Mr. Harris, post trader and interpreter, this operation was satisfactorily accomplished in his store.

This article was written by an unidentified member of the Hayden Survey team based on his August 27, 1874 interview with Ouray.

Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library 

Ouray by William Henry Jackson


This photo of Ouray was taken by William Henry Jackson on the porch of the Ute Agency at Los Pinos in August 1874.  Author Aylesa Farsee in William Henry Jackson: Pioneer Photographer of the West (Viking Press, 1964), said Jackson was surprised to find Ouray dressed in a tailored suit and shiny black boots. It is part of the William Henry Jackson Collection at Brigham Young University.

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William Henry Jackson’s Ute Photographs

1874 painting of Ute camp near Los Pinos signed by William Henry Jackson

Photographer William Henry Jackson left camp near Denver on July 21, 1874, travelling with the Hayden Expedition. They arrived at Los Pinos Indian Agency on the Ute Reservation in Western Colorado in August.
          Agent Henry Bond and his wife warned Jackson that the Utes were superstitious about cameras. They suggested Ouray would be his best hope for a photo since he spoke English and was well acquainted with the ways of white people. Bond may also have been aware that Ouray had been photographed several times during trips to Washington, DC.
          According to Aylesa Farsee in William Henry Jackson: Pioneer Photographer of the West (Viking Press, 1964), “Jackson was delighted by the intelligent, alert questions Ouray put to him,” and Ouray agreed to pose for the camera. Jackson set up a temporary studio on the Agency porch using canvas and blankets for backdrops. Both Ouray and Chipeta sat for portaits.
         Then Jackson travelled to a temporary camp 3/4 of a mile away where a number of Utes had gathered to receive their annual government supplies the following day. Jackson set up his equipment but the Utes surrounded him, covered his camera with a blanket, and refused to be photographed. Perhaps that is when Jackson turned to paint and canvas.
         The painting is part of the William Henry Jackson Collection at Brigham Young University.

SS Chief Ouray, Part 2

Your Bonds Buy Ships posterDuring World War II, any person or group who raised two million dollars by selling war bonds could propose the name for a ship. There were five  Liberty Ships named for Indian Chiefs.
          The SS Chief Ouray, hull number 513, was the first of the five entered into production. Its keel was laid down for assembly at the Permanente Metals Corporation, Yard #1, in Richmond, California on November 27, 1942. It was built in “way #1” of the seven ways (assembly slots). The completed ship was christened and launched on December 28, 1942. It was delivered to the Navy on January 12, 1943.
          Three days after the Chief Ouray’s keel was laid down, assembly of the Chief Washakie, hull number 613, began at the Oregon Shipbuilding Company in Portland, Oregon. The Washakie was launched December 24, 1942, four days before the Chief Ouray, thus becoming the first Liberty Ship christened in honor of an Indian chief.
          The five chiefs honored with namesake Liberty Ships included Charlot of the Flathead, Joseph of the Nez Perce, Ouray of the Ute, Osceoloa of the Seminole, and Washakie of the Shoshone.
Complete List of Liberty Ships