Was Chipeta Really A Queen?

Chipeta___Queen__4985269937fc5If she was not a queen, why did I use the title Chipeta: Queen of the Utes for my first book about her?
          The reference to Chipeta as “Queen” came from an incident that occurred on August 27, 1872. It was the opening day of a treaty council with the Utes and U.S. Government representatives.
          A reporter for the Rocky Mountain News was present. He offered a sarcastic description of Chipeta:
“This afternoon the commissioners were waited upon by the queen of the Utes – Madame Ure [Ouray] I suppose she is called – who swept down in all her royal stations, attired in a skirt of buckskin, a pair of moccasins, an old shawl, and a lot of uncombed hair.”
          The reporter used the word queen to make fun of Chipeta.
          The first definition of “queen” in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is “the wife or widow of a king…or a tribal chieftain.”
          Ouray was not a chosen Ute chief. However, government officials saw him as a chief. He spoke for the Ute delegations that met with officials in Washington.
          Ouray and the Indian Agent both spoke Spanish well. After discussion with the delegation members, Ouray stated the Ute positions in Spanish. The Agent translated into English. For this reason, the men in Washington saw Ouray as the spokesman, and therefore, the chief.
          In the eyes of the U.S. Government, Chipeta was the wife of a tribal chieftain. “Queen” was a fitting title.
          As I researched Chipeta’s life, I came to appreciate her strength. She demonstrated courage in many challenging situations. Her life was not easy. In the end, she was honored by her people as a wise and respected elder.

The book is available from Western Reflections Publishing: <a href="http://www.westernreflectionspublishing.com/index.php/

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Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ute or Nuche

SDC10339The Utes call themselves “Nuche.” They say “Ute” is a white word.
          Individual Nuche had only one name. The name was often connected to some feature of the person or an experience. Surnames were added by the United States government for census records.
          Adoption, to the Nuche, meant “as if I gave birth to the child.” Sometimes a couple would give a newborn child to a couple who had no children. For example, Coroopits was a child of Ouray’s brother and Chipeta’s sister. They gave the baby to Ouray and Chipeta and she became their daughter.  

Information from a speech by Roland McCook at Rocky Mountain National Park and reported by Juley Harvey of the Estes Park Trail-Gazette.

Published in: on May 5, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Caswop’s Chickens

Shan Kive in Garden of the Gods 1912

Shan Kive in Garden of the Gods 1912

In honor of Chipeta’s recognition during National Women’s History Month, here is another little story about Chipeta. It reveals her long held friendships and her appreciation of kindness offered.

In August of 1912, Chipeta joined a group of Utes who were invited to participate in an event called Shan Kive which was held in the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs. They travelled by horseback.
          On their return trip to the Utah reservation, the Utes camped along the Gunnison River near Delta, Colorado. When a local man named Newton Castle learned that Chipeta was with the group, he rode out to see her. He had made friends with Chipeta when he worked as a trader in the 1880s.
          Chipeta welcomed “Caswop,” as she had always called him. Castle took Chipeta and her ten-year-old neice to his home to spend the night with his family. The Utes were leaving for Utah the next morning and the Castles gave Chipeta a few live chickens in a wire cage. They thought she could roast the chickens at the next camp and eat them on the trip back to Utah.
          As they watched Chipeta ride away on her horse with only a blanket for a saddle, the Castles thought they had seen and heard the last of the old Indian woman.
          The following spring, Mrs. Castle was surprised to greet three young Ute women at her front door. They said Chipeta had sent them to thank the Castle’s and to report on the chickens. The birds were all alive and well and producing eggs and offspring.

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Published in: on March 24, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chief Ouray

cc0307aTo learn more about Chipeta’s husband, Chief Ouray, read a brief bio on the Denver Public Library blog or the full biography Ouray Chief of the Utes by P. David Smith.

          This photo was taken in the 1870s by William Chamberlain in the Denver studio of William Henry Jackson.

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.

Published in: on January 20, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Meeting Chipeta, Part 1

Chipeta early 1900sThe story that follows appeared in the The American Indian Magazine: a Journal of Race Ideals, Sept 30, 1917. It was written by a woman named Zitkala-Sa. She was the editor of the magazine produced quarterly by the Society of American Indians.

          This fall it was my special privilege to be the guest of Chipeta. I had gone to her for a heart to heart talk about the use of peyote, a powerful narcotic, used by the Ute people.
          Within her nephew’s tepee…were gathered friends, relatives and neighbors—for word had gone out that I was coming to talk about matters of large importance with Chipeta. And Chipeta is an honored woman for she is the widow of Ouray, a red patriot who had many times saved the lives of white settlers and who had in many an emergency saved his tribe from disaster.
          Our conversation drifted pleasantly to the days of Chipeta’s girlhood. It is an old time custom among Indians to enter upon a subject slowly and not rush to discussion at once, nor try to say all one desired to voice in one breath.
          Chipeta was not boastful. More often she sat silently smiling and nodding her assent to the stories one related of her wild rides through the hills, risking her own personal safely to give warning to her white friends of impeding raids.
          With these stories told, came the plunge into the talk about present day conditions.
          I told of the rumors that [Chipeta] and her brother McCook had been deceived into the use of a dangerous drug. [A]nd that they were being fleeced by the mercenary traffickers in peyote buttons.
          [Chipeta] scanned my face as I told them of the inevitable degeneration that follows the habitual and indiscriminate use of narcotics.
          She told me that peyote eased her brother’s rheumatism and hers. She added, “I have noticed that the pain returns when I stop the use of the drug.”

(Part 2 follows next week)

Published in: on January 13, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chipeta’s Allotment Land, Part 3

Utes- Mrs. John Marshall, pappoose Kate (daughter of Luke Snow), Chipeta, pappoose Scoop, Mrs. John Patterson, Mrs. Buckskin Charlie (Toowee), pappoose Japanese

Utes- Mrs. John Marshall, pappoose Kate (daughter of Luke Snow), Chipeta, pappoose Scoop, Mrs. Tom Patterson (Co-roo-poo-its), Mrs. Buckskin Charlie (Toowee), pappoose Japanese

In the hearing related to Chipeta’s property, Sam Alhandra testified that he had known Chipeta all his life. He said “she died about a year ago and was a very old woman.”
          He reported that Chipeta had no husband living and had no natural children. He confirmed that Chipeta had adopted James McCook as a small child. Before that she had “adopted his mother, Co-roo-poo-its, a daughter of a brother of Ouray.” Co-roo-poo-its was still living at the time of this testimony. Sam Alhandra signed the typed statement of this interview with his thumb print.
          Corass did not know his own age but the interpreter noted he was “74 years by records.” He confirmed what Sam Alhandra had stated and he, too, signed the typed statement with his thumb print.
          While the record of the hearing did not include a decision, the testimony appeared to verify that James McCook was Chipeta’s heir.

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

Interviews by Examiner of Inheritance, October 1925, http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/uaida/id/38091

Published in: on September 30, 2013 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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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, http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/uaida/id/38091

Published in: on September 23, 2013 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ouray and Chipeta Meet U.S. Presidents

Opening of the Gunnison Tunnel, 1909

Opening of the Gunnison Tunnel, 1909

Inauguration Day is a good time to think about Presidents of the United States. Have you ever met a President in person?
          Would you be surprised to know that Chipeta and Ouray had personal meetings with several U.S. Presidents?
          During his first trip to Washington City in April 1863, Ouray and a delegation of Utes met with President Abraham Lincoln. At that time Lincoln presented Ouray with a black cane, his standard gift to the leader of each Indian delegation he met.
          On February 5, 1868, Ouray and another delegation of chiefs met with President Andrew Johnson. The President gave them a tour of the White House.
          In January 1872, Ouray and a delegation of Ute chiefs were received at the White House by President and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant .
          The following year, Ouray and another delegation of Utes were back in the nation’s capital. During this trip the Utes agreed to give up their claim to the San Juan Mountains. Ouray and the delegation met with President Grant on October 24, 1873.
          President William Howard Taft came to Colorado in 1909. On September 23, 1909, he gave a speech in Grand Junction, Colorado, reportedly attended by 12,000 people. Chipeta and a group of Ute chiefs were among the specially invited guests. After the speech, Chipeta and the special guests stepped onto the stage to meet the President. This group of guests would accompany the President on a train to Montrose for the opening of the Gunnison Tunnel. President Taft insisted that Chipeta ride with him to the railroad station in his open touring car.

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection.

Sources: Indian Agent Expense Records, National Archives; Washington Evening Star, October 24, 1873; Bits of Colorado History, Al Look (Golden Bell Press, 1977)