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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