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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Did the Utes Use Sign Language?

Rushing Bear demonstrates sign for "now"

Rushing Bear demonstrates sign for “now”

In his book Our Wild Indians Richard Irving Dodge shared what he learned about the Indians’ use of sign language.
          “Plains Indians,” according to Dodge, “used sign even to accompany speaking among themselves. Talking with their hands was just habit to them.”
         But Dodge noticed that other tribes made far less use of sign language.
          Dodge once asked Chief Ouray about Ute sign language. “Ouray told me his people never used the sign language among themselves,” Dodge reported. “Most of the [Ute] warriors had picked up a little smattering of this language and used it in their [communication] with the Plains Indians or with the whites.”
          Similarly, “most of [the Utes] had acquired a slight knowledge of Spanish by and for use in their trade with Mexicans and Apaches.”

From: Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years of Personal Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West by Richard Irving Dodge, A.D. Worthington and Company, Hartford, CT, 1882, page 384.

Photo from Smithsonian collection

Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Indian Communication

Ute Scout 1899“All persons who have been among Indians are astonished at the wonderful speed and accuracy of Indian rumors,” reported Richard Irving Dodge, longtime western military officer in the 1800s. “Something occurs today; it is known tomorrow at distances that appear incredible.”
          “In September, 1880 an outbreak occurred at Fort Reno, sixty miles from this post (Cantonment, Indian Territory). The Indian scouts here knew and informed me of it before I heard of it by the telegraph line between the two posts.
          “So, also, when Ouray was sick; his condition was known every day by us, though we were quite a hundred miles away, and the country between us exceedingly difficult.” [Dodge probably refers to Ouray’s final illness in 1880.]

Photo Courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection 

Quoted material from: Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years of Personal Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West by Richard Irving Dodge, A.D. Worthington and Company, Hartford, CT, 1882, page 344.

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.

Ouray’s Pipe and Pipe Bag


This photo of Ouray was taken about 1863. He holds the ebony cane given to him by President Abraham Lincoln during his first trip to Washington with a delegation of Utes. Ouray also wears the Lincoln Peace Medal which was given to a few chiefs at the conclusion of the 1863 treaty conference held in Colorado.            
          History Colorado, Denver, has in it’s collection Ouray’s ceremonial pipe and pipe bag. You can see a picture of these items and read the description at: https://collectioncare.auraria.edu/content/ourays-pipe-and-pipe-bag-ute-indian-leader
Chipeta made Ouray’s clothing, mocassins, and pipe bag from deer or elk hides and decorated them with trade beads and possibly some natural materials such as seeds or quills.

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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Lincoln Canes, Part 1

Ouray with Lincoln Cane presented to him as leader of a Ute Delegation, 1863

In 1863, Ouray led the first Ute delegation to visit Washington City. During their stay in the nation’s capital city, the delegation met with President Abraham Lincoln. It was the President’s habit to present an ebony cane to the leader of each Indian delegation that visited him.
          That same year, nineteen special canes were presented to a group of Indians who did not travel to Washington City.
          In 1846, the United States Army had taken control of what became New Mexico Territory after the Mexican American War. The Pueblo Indians of that territory came forward in peace and did not oppose the invasion. They continued their peaceful stance as the U.S. government pursued nomadic tribes to bring them under control. Similarly, when Civil War activity spilled into the territory, the Pueblos refused to become involved.
          On January 22, 1864, Congress approved appointment of Dr. Michael Steck as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for New Mexico Territory. Steck had been an Indian agent in the territory for the past ten years. He promoted the idea of recognizing the Pueblo people for their peaceful support. While in Washington on government business, he gained Lincoln’s approval for delivering a cane to each Pueblo.
          On February 15, 1864, Steck ordered nineteen canes from John Dold of Philadelphia. Each cane would be inscribed with the name of the Pueblo, the year 1863, and the signature of “A. Lincoln.” The silver-topped ebony canes cost $5.50 each at that time.
          Steck returned to New Mexico on March 27, 1864 with the special gifts, which he presented, on behalf of the President, to the Governor of each Pueblo. Recipients were the Pueblos of Taos, Picuris, San Juan, Santa Clara, San Ildefonso, Pojoaque, Nambe, Tesuque, Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Jemez, Zia, Santa Ana, Sandia, Isleta, Laguna, Acoma and Zuni.


Symbolism and Significance of the Lincoln Canes for the Pueblos of New Mexico, 1994, by Martha LaCroix Daily, available at href=”http://www.newmexicohistory.org/featured_projects/nmlincoln200/Symbolism%20and%20Significance%20of%20the%20Lincoln%20Canes.pdf

Story of the canes:  href=”http://www.newmexicohistory.org/featured_projects/nmlincoln200/nm_magazine.pdf

Photo Courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Published in: on August 26, 2013 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Changing Names of Indian Agency

          In 1860 the Conejos Agency was established for the Tabeguache Utes. The name came from the River in Southern Colorado. The little town located along the river was also called Conejos. It was the home of the Indian Agent, Lafayette Head.
          In 1869 the Agency was moved to Los Pinos Creek and renamed Los Pinos Agency.
          The Agency was relocated again in 1875 to the Uncompahgre Valley. However, the name Los Pinos Agency was retained.
          The Tabeguache Utes and their Agency were moved to a new reservation on Utah’s Green River in 1881. It became the Ouray Agency, named for their famous chief who died before the move.
          In 1886 the reservation was consolidated with the adjoining reservation as the Uintah and Ouray Agency

Published in: on March 26, 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)