This 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.
The 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)
According to Chipeta’s great nephew, when a couple had no children, relatives might give them a child. A brother of Ouray married a sister of Chipeta. They gave a baby to Chipeta and Ouray. This little girl, born about 1863, was called Cooroopits. She grew up to marry a Ute known as Tom Patterson. Cooroopits is often found in photos of Chipeta taken when she travelled from the reservation to visit friends in Colorado in the early 1900s.
In accounts by people who visited Chipeta and Ouray in the 1860s, three other children are mentioned. Living with Chipeta and Ouray were a girl called Sowanarotance and boys called Antonio and Atchu. In a 1904 census taken on the Utah reservation, Antonio (born about 1855) appears to be living in the camp with Chipeta and McCook’s family.
Chipeta and her second husband, called Accoomooquats, are listed in the 1885 census of Utes living on the Utah reservation. Also listed in their teepee are six boys ranging in age from 5 to 15: Duascuno, Sevito, Guadelupe, Jose La Cross, Francisco and John Peto. When land was allotted to individual Utes in Utah, John Peto received land near Chipeta’s. In 1906 he is called “J.P. Chipeta” in a list of Utes being compensated for land taken from them for construction of a toll road.
This series of posts attempts to answer the most frequent questions asked by students who visited this site in 2012 (based on search terms used).
Photo courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection