The Uintah Ouray Reservation 100 years ago

The Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs are filled with statistics. From these we gain a little perspective on reservation life in the year 1913.

          Ute populations on Colorado reservations:

          504   Wiminuche

          360   Capote and Muache

          Ute populations on Utah reservations:

          478   Uintah

          451   Uncompahgre

          283   White River

       2,076   Utes living on reservations in 1913

John Wesley Powell Survey

John Wesley Powell, 1869

In the summer of 1868 John Wesley Powell led his second western expedition. With a group of students and friends, he studied the natural history of the Rocky Mountains. Most members of the expedition returned home in the fall. But Powell, his wife Emma, and three men spent the winter of 1868-69 camped along the White River in Colorado.  There he met a band of Ute Indians led by Chief Douglas. Powell observed Ute customs and began to learn their language.
          According to anthropologists Don and Catherine Fowler, “The Utes dubbed him [Powell] Kapurats, meaning ‘arm off’.” Powell had lost his right arm in the Civil War.
          A century later, the Fowlers met “an old Kaibab Paiute woman from northern Arizona” who said “Kapurats was remembered by her people as the man who many years ago tied rags on trees (apparently referring to the surveying tape used by Powell and his men in mapping the area).” The old woman said, now “those rags are way up high in those trees.”
          “In later years, Powell again worked briefly with various Northern Ute. During a horseback trip from the Uintah Indian Agency to Gunnison, Utah, Powell fell in with a Ute band, travelled with them, and spent the evenings around the campfire learning more of their language.”

Richard Komas, 1872

          “In the summer of 1874, after he [Powell] had completed his geological studies in the Uinta Mountains, he went to the Uintah Agency for a few days to gather more information on the Ute language. In the winter of 1875 he brought Richard Komas, a Northern Ute youth who was a student at Lincoln College in Pennsylvania, to Washington, D.C., for a time to continue his studies of the language.”

For more information about John Wesley Powell, see A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell by Donald Worster

Quoted text from “John Wesley Powell’s Anthropological Fieldwork,” by Don D. Fowler and Catherine S. Fowler, Geological Survey Professional Paper 670

Photo of Powell courtesy National Park Service photo collection.

Photo of Komas courtesy First People Photo Gallery.

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

Meeker Massacre Utes Testify

Ouray by William Henry Jackson

Testimony of the Ute Chiefs
The New York Times
November 16, 1879
Los Pinos, Cal.
[a little typographical error by the Times; should be Colorado]

“Ouray carried his point at the Indian council held on the night of November 12, and the principal chiefs of the White River Utes, except Jack, were at the agency yesterday…
          “Ouray has made all the necessary preparations for the protection of the commission and if the White River Utes should make any attempt toward an outbreak, 50 picked men, who are now encamped within rifle shot of the commission, would be on hand the instant anything of that kind was attempted. [A Peace Commission was taking testimony related to the Meeker Massacre.]
          “Indians who testify before the commission are sworn by Chief Ouray…Douglass was the first witness called. The oath, like all the testimony, was translated into Spanish by Ouray, and then into English by Interpreter Townsend…
Douglass…said nothing, heard nothing, and took no part in the killing of Meeker and his employees or in the fight with Thornburg;
he found Mrs. Meeker frightened and fleeing, and took her to his house and took care of her;
his time was so much occupied with the care of his wounded boy that he did not know anything in relation to what was going wrong;
at the time of the killing of the employees began, he was in the warehouse, and did not know who began the attack;
his feelings overcame him, and it made him cry to think of the condition into which his friends had fallen;
         “Meeker told him that in two days soldiers would come. Douglass replied that it would be better to have officers come to the agency and have a council and try to settle the existing difficulties. As the Indians were afraid of the soldiers, Mr. Meeker promised to go with Douglass in the morning and meet the officers; but while they were talking the fight with Thornburgh was going on, though neither Douglass nor Mr. Meeker was aware of the fact at the time.”

Published in: on November 14, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Siting a Reservation at White River

D.C. Oakes

Colorado Territorial Governor McCook wanted to establish a new Ute Indian Agency in the northern part of Colorado. He sent Indian Agent Daniel C. Oakes on a mission to find a good location.

On September 15, 1869, Agent Oakes reported to Governor McCook:

          “I proceeded with the contractors to White River, on the Ute Reservation, [travelling] via Rawlings’s Springs, on the Union Pacific Railroad, and Bridger’s Pass, reaching there on the 7th of September.”
          “…I found a most excellent and desirable location for the agency on White River…It is below a deep canyon, and at the upper end of a broad and beautiful valley, extending about twenty miles down, and averaging from one to three miles in width, of good, arable land.”
          “White River at this point contains a great abundance of water for mill and irrigating purposes…There is plenty of good cottonwood timber along the stream, and pine in the mountains some six miles distant. The side valleys and adjacent hills afford abundant pasturage for the stock of the agency and the Indians…It is a warm valley, and stock will subsist the year round upon the pasturage. A better place could not be found in the northern part of the reservation, in my opinion.”

Photo courtesy the Denver Public Library, Western History Collection
Quoted Text from Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1869

Published in: on September 12, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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“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