A New Reservation in Utah

In 1880, many of the Ute Indians were removed from Colorado and resettled on reservations in Utah. This was a result of the public outcry over the Meeker Massacre.  The land they were given was shockingly barren compared to their Rocky Mountain homeland. The Ouray Agency was a new reservation established for the Tabeguache Utes near the existing Uintah Agency.
          The 1885 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs offers a glimpse into life on the Utah reservation, three years after the Tabeguache Utes were relocated from Colorado. Of course, the report was written by the Indian Agent, J.F. Gardner (a white man).
          On August 12, 1885, Agent Gardner filed his second annual report. The agency office had been moved across the Green River to the former site of Fort Thornburgh. There were eleven buildings on the four-acre site, built of round logs (called stockade-built). Roofs were logs covered with dirt. Special Agent Leuders had repaired the buildings.
          Gardner said the buildings were fine in dry weather but “untenable in in the rainy season.” He had built a new agent’s house – a lathe and plaster dwelling 28 by 44 feet. The cost of the building was $1,994.54.
          A frame school house was also built at a cost of $800.00. It was 16 by 30 feet in size and needed to be plastered before ready for use. The school could accommodate thirty “day-scholars.” (There were no facilities for students to live at the school.)
         When the facility had been used by the Army, soldiers slept in tents surrounded by dirt embankments for protection. The embankments were removed and the flattend area seeded with grass.

<em>Content from “Reports of Agents in Utah,” Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1885</em>

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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

“We Won’t Go,” said the Utes

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.

When Alexander Cummings became Governor of Colorado Territory, he quickly discovered the Ute Indians were not happy.
          “When I arrived in the Territory in October 1865…my predecessor had but just returned from his interview with the Tabeguache, to whom he had given annuities of goods and stock. He was under the impression that the Indians…had resolved to go across the mountains toward or into their reservation.”
          To his surprise, Cummings found “that the Tabeguaches never had much idea of going to their reservation, or, if they had, they very soon abandoned it.”
          Cummings reported that he met with the Uintah and Yampa (Green River) bands of Utes. His purpose was to convince them to give up their current land and to join the Tabeguaches on a reservation agreed to in the 1863-64 treaty.
          “I took with me to this meeting…a quantity of provisions and cattle, and part of the goods which had been stored in Denver for a year or two past,” Cumming reported. “I met with Indians under very favorable circumstances; found them in a very good humor…but I soon learned that they were utterly averse to parting with the lands in question, and also unwilling to even entertain the proposition of permitting roads to be made through their grounds.”
           Drawing a map in the dirt, Cummings showed the Unitah and Yampa leaders certain areas of land they claimed to be theirs which the Tabeguache had sold to the government in the recent treaty. “This exasperated them very much…They said the Tabeguaches had never sold these lands, but if they had done it they had no right whatsoever to do so. They said the country that they were now occupying was their own hunting ground…and that no power should disturb their possession of it.”
          Cummings attempted to convince the Uintah and Yampa to “abandon their claim and go over to the White River to a reservation in the immediate vicinity of the Tabeguache reserve.” The Uintah and Wampa (sic) leaders refused. Cummings pushed this idea so hard that he began to fear for his own safety.
          “They are quite intelligent,” Cummings said of these Utes, “and point with great earnestness to the condition of all the places where the whites have obtained a foothold. And they say with great force that if roads and settlements are allowed to be made in their present hunting grounds, which is all that is left to them, the game will vanish and they will soon be left to starvation.”
          “These bands, the Uintahs and the Wampas (sic), are a quiet, peaceably-disposed people: say they want to live on friendly terms with the whites…”
          Cummings did make a treaty with the Uintahs and Yampas in August 1866 but it was never ratified by Congress.

Photo courtesy Colorado State Archives
Text from Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1866