The Southern Ute Agency, 1900

On August 25, 1900, Indian Agent Joseph O. Smith reported on the state of the Southern Ute Agency. He noted, “In comparison with other Indian tribes, I believe the Ute to be an exceptionally sturdy, healthy people…”
         Agent Smith described “the driest summer seen in Southern Colorado in many years. There was not rain during the months of June, July and August.” The grazing land for livestock was poor and hay fields that did not have access to irrigation were almost barren. A new irrigation ditch had been completed which delivered water from the Pine River to thousands of fertile acres on the high mesas to the west of Ignacio. Two canals were in operation carrying water as far as eight miles.
          Miss Gertrude R. Hileman, teacher at the Presbyterian Mission School at Ignacio reported 37 students enrolled with average attendance of 17 students, less than 50%.

Information from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1900

Indian Boarding School, 1900

In 1900, the Ouray boarding school at Leland, Utah had enrollment of 60 students with average attendance of 44. Enrollment more than doubled during the year from 24 in the first quarter, to 33 second quarter, 51 third quarter, and 54 fourth quarter. Superintendent John M. Commons hoped to reach full capacity of 80 students the following year.
            Commons reported the school’s farming activities during the year produced “half enough potatoes for the pupils, besides a good supply of other vegetables, and plenty of hay to feed our herd of 25 cattle during the winter.”
            The school’s greatest need was a water system. Water had to be hauled by buckets from the Uinta River to the school, a distance of 300 yards. This took several of the larger boys away from their studies for “a considerable amount of time.” Commons said, “When the mercury ranged for 10 to 20 degrees below zero, and when the pails, barrels, and wagon become covered with ice from an inch to 4 inches in thickness, hauling water for all purposes in the school of 50 or 60 pupils is a real hardship.”

From the Report of the Superintendent of the Ouray School in the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1900

Interview with Ouray, Part 3

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


Ouray by William Henry Jackson taken at Los Pinos 1874.

[After obtaining horses, the Utes] changed their attitude of defense to one of offense and used the war hotly against their old enemies, refusing to fight the Spaniards, as nearly all of the village tribes south of these were doing. It was in these raids that they first obtained and learned to use fire arms, capturing them from the plains Indians who had been visited by traders. Gaining in strength, numbers and courage with new victories through long years and weary battles, they finally drove them east of the Rocky Mountains, actually on to the plains, and were possessors of all the territory now included in Utah and Colorado, between the Wahsatch Mountains and the main range.
          Of course, it is difficult to tell how long ago all this happened; but that the main account is a true history of the tribe I have little doubt. The rest we can form a definite idea of, for Ouray tells me that he can remember when the Utes first met the white man (that is, Americans…) in the vicinity of Del Norte on the Rio Grande. His father, Salvador, was then chief of the tribe and his mother an Apache. These white men were of course traders, but they were soon followed by others and the Utes soon became familiar and friendly with them…[I]t is their boast today that no Ute in good standing has ever killed a white man.
          The head men of the tribe are constantly watching the behavior of the boys and young men. When they see one who is intelligent and progressive, whose ideas are in conformity with the policy of the [Ute] nation, and who shows a capacity for carrying on their affairs with credit and advantage, he is looked upon as a captain without further ceremony. From the captains the head chief is elected.

Young and powerful Ouray in 1863. He holds the cane presented to him by President Abraham Lincoln.

          Such a man was young Ouray, and he at last became chief, with the consent of the tribe, altogether through his own merits, and not because his father was chief, for no hereditary honors are recognized. He first succeeded Benito as war chief in 1863, perhaps at the nomination and certainly with the sanction of the U.S. Government, which had become convinced of his ability during negotiation of the treaty at that time. The election and the terms of the treaty together so dissatisfied old Nevava, head chief, that with all his band he left the Southern Utes and reported thereafter at the White River Agency. Subsequently there was a split in his band, and some 350 went, under the leadership of Piah, to Denver, where they now receive their supplies.


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

Photos courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection.

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Hayden Survey 1874 Los Pinos

The 1874 Hayden Survey team visited the Los Pinos Agency where they photographed the landscape and the Ute Indians who inhabited it. The men were careful to record details of the location and features in each photograph.

“The 1874 Photographic Division on the way to Los Pinos and Mesa Verde. Left to right: Smart, Anthony, Mitchell, Whan, Ernest Ingersoll, and Charley, the cook. Dolly, the mule, stands between Charley and Ingersoll. Colorado. 1874. ”

“View on the White Earth River, looking down, where the trail from Los Pinos to Antelope Park crosses the White Earth; is a handsome little pocket of a valley, surrounded by high walls of the variously colored trachytes, characteristic of this region. The river canyons cut deeply, both in entering and leaving this valley. Gunnison and Hinsdale Counties, Colorado. 1874.”

Photographs by William Henry Jackson from the U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library

Negotiating with the Utes 1878

By an act of Congress approved May 3, 1878, Rutherford B. Hayes, President of the United States, was authorized to “…enter into negotiations with the Ute Indians of the State of Colorado, for the consolidation of all the bands into one agency to be located on the White River, or near said river, and for the extinguishment of their right to the southern portion of their reservation in said State…”      
          Edward Hatch, William Stickney, and N.C. McFarland were appointed as a commission to negotiate with the Ute Indians. They were instructed to use particular care in “selecting a location for the future settlement of these Indians to secure a sufficient quantity of arable land to enable them to become, by agricultural pursuits, a self supporting people.”

Photo courtesy Library of Congress from a glass negative in the Brady Handy Collection

Brigham Young and Indian Affairs

Brigham Young

From “Great Salt Lake City, U.T.” on June 24, 1865, O.H. Irish wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C. He described his experiences negotiating a treaty with the Ute Indians living in Utah Territory.
          He had asked several bands of Utes to meet him at Spanish Fork Indian Farm on the sixth of June. He also invited “the Federal Officers and the Military Commandant…and Ex-Gov Brigham Young to accompany me, to render such information and assistance as they could. All of the Federal and Military Officers declined going because Brigham Young was invited.” The Territorial Governor, the U.S. Marshall, the Collector and Assessor were the only officials who agreed to attend.
          Irish reported that Utah Territorial Governor James Doty had assisted in preparation for the meeting and approved the proposed treaty terms (which the Utes later accepted). Doty was unable to attend the meeting due to illness. He died ten days later. Irish noted that the Governor “advised me not to be discouraged by the opposition manifested by the other officers of the government who declared that rather than associate with Brigham Young on such an occasion, they would have the negotiation fail, that they would rather the Indians than the Mormons would have the land.”
          “Brigham Young accepted my invitation…His name appears on the treaty as a witness only, and he acted only in advising the Indians to make the treaty. The fact exists however much some might prefer it should be otherwise, that he has pursued so kind and conciliatory a policy with the Indians that it has given him great influence over them. It was my duty and policy under your instructions to make use of his influence for the accomplishment of the purposes of Government.”
          By terms of the treaty, the Utes would give up their right to all lands in Utah Territory except the Uintah Valley, which would be their reservation. In return, the government would give the Utes $1,000,000 paid over the next sixty years. Four existing reservations totaling more than 291,000 acres would be sold and the Utes would receive the proceeds. The government would build a mill and mechanic shop and provide a variety of support and training for ten years.   
          The Utes agreed to move to the Uintah Valley and allow the government to build roads and telephone lines through the new reservation. They also agreed that “no liquor shall be used by any of them and no white person shall be allowed to bring any upon the reservation.”
          This treaty was never ratified by the U.S. Congress.

Quoted text from the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1865

Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Lifesaving Lincoln Peace Medal

Here is another a little research story, about a Lincoln Peace Medal, that is too good to pass up.
          In 1918 Mr. J. Sanford Saltus presented a number of coins and medals to the American Numismatic Society, including “a Lincoln Peace Medal showing the mark of a bullet. This medal saved the life of a Ute Indian wearing it.” (Proceedings of the American Numismatic Society for the Sixtieth Annual Meeting, 1918)
          When I came across mention of this medal in 2003, I contacted the American Numismatic Society by email. Robert Wilson Hoge, Curator of American Coins and Currency, replied. He said the particular Lincoln Peace Medal was at that time on exhibition at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He sent the following description of the piece:

Pierced. Crater from impact of bullet (bullet still intact). Original issue, solid silver (second striking, second rev.) Thickness: 4.3mm. Sold by a Ute Indian in Colorado who, in 1873 was in a skirmish with another tribe when a bullet struck the medal which saved his life. He subsequently sold the medal, calling it “heap bad medicine,” because he felt it should have kept the bullet away from him altogether.

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 6:00 am  Comments (3)  
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