The story that follows appeared in the The American Indian Magazine, a Journal of Race Ideals, Sept 30, 1917. It was written by Zitkala-Sa, editor of the magazine. Another story about meeting Chipeta appeared in previous posts Part 1 and Part 2
I…heard an amazing story. It was about my friend Chipeta. It was like a tale in a night-mare and I could scarcely believe it…This is what I heard said:
In some way the idea was started that the Government ought to give a gift to Chipeta in grateful memory of Chief Ouray, faithful friend of…settlers and loyal advocate of obedience to Federal orders. It was to be a token of regard also to Chipeta for the valuable service she, too, had rendered.
The plan was presented to the Great White Father in Washington and was approved.
The question then came up as to the kind of gift that would be useful to Chipeta and at the same time suitable as a memento.
I heard the story of the discussion and light streamed into my heart. My fancy moved ahead of the story and I thought of the kind of gifts that were within range of possibility.
What if the gift should be a genuine guarantee of water rights to the Ute Indians,
…or the title to their 250,000 acres of grazing lands to be held intact for the future unallotted children [those who had not received a piece of reservation land],
…or a message from the Great White Father giving news of Federal action against the peyote drug?
All these things and more were needed and any one would have been a royal gift to…Chipeta. Then dimly in my ears the story went on.
With a sudden shock I heard that the gift chosen was a pair of trading store shawls. Scarcely could I believe my ears, for was this a suitable gift with which to honor loyal service through a period of many years?
The shawls were purchased at a little trading station [in Utah] and sent to Washington. There they were tagged as a gift from the Great White Father, in honor of the past friendship of Chief Ouray and of Chipeta to the white people. Then the shawls were reshipped to their starting point in Utah.
With innocent joy Chipeta received them.
At once she returned the compliment by sending the donor a large and expensive Navaho blanket. It was a free will offering, paid for by personal money and given out of the gratitude of her heart for the small token that someone in Washington had given her.
Little did Chipeta realize that she had never really received a gift, but that without her consent she had been made to pay for the “gift shawls.”
The bill for the shawls was sent to the government office at the Uintah and Ouray Agency where Chipeta lived. [The bill] was paid out of Ute money known as “Interest on the Ute 5% Funds.” [This was money the government had paid to the Utes for their lands that were taken from them when they were moved out of Colorado.]
If the spirit eyes of Chief Ouray could see, his heart must be made sad. His widow had given away a beautiful blanket rug to reciprocate what she [thought was] a gift of tender sentiment.
Poor unsuspecting Chipeta, loyal friend of the whites in the days when Indian friendship counted! …No shawl is big enough to obscure or to cover the gifts you have given freely and for which no material thing will ever repay you.
Note: Chipeta wears one of the gift shawls in the photo above.