Ute Tribal Paths

We Are Still Here-Uintah and Ouray Reservation

The Ute Indian Tribe lives on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Fort Duschesne, Utah. It is the second largest Indian reservation in the U.S., and covers over 4.5 million acres. The tribe oversees 1.3 million acres of land. The tribe’s membership is 3,022 people. Over half of the membership lives on the Reservation. The Ute Indian Tribe are descendants of the Tabeguache, Yamparica, Parianuche, Uintah, Cumumba, Tupanawach, San Pitch, Pah Vant and Sheberetch bands.

Chief Ouray was born in 1833. His mother was Ute and his father was a Jicarilla Apache. Chief Ouray grew up near Taos, NM, near white settlers, so he learned to speak English. Chief Ouray joined the Tabeguache band of Utes in western Colorado during his teens, and became a chief by distinguishing himself in battle against the Arapahos.

Because Chief Ouray spoke English and was familiar with Anglo culture, he was able to serve as a negotiator with U.S. Government officials. He met with three different presidents in Washington, D.C. and was a friend of Kit Carson's.

The U.S. government did not take the time to understand the different Ute bands and whom they respected as leaders. After the Treaty of 1868, the U.S. recognized Chief Ouray as the chief of all the Ute people, though many Utes did not.

Chief Ouray worked very hard to keep his people out of war and helped them preserve their tribal identity, though he could not preserve their homeland. The Treaty of 1868 was later broken by the government and the Ute people were forced on to three smaller reservations, one in Utah. The Utes lost roughly 20 million acres of land in Colorado during the time that Ouray was chief. Chief Ouray died in August 24, 1880 near Los Pinos Indian Agency in Colorado. His people secretly buried him near Ignacio and he will always be known as a Peace Chief.

Chief Ouray’s second wife, Chipeta, was highly respected by both whites and Utes. Chipeta was born a Jicarilla Apache but was raised by the Utes. She spoke in support of Chief Ouray’s policies.

During her life, Chipeta used diplomacy to try to achieve peace with the white settlers in Colorado as they continued to encroach on Ute lands. Following the violence of 1879, Chipeta traveled with Chief Ouray to Washington, D.C. to testify before Congress when he worked to negotiate a treaty regarding reservation resettlement. Later, Chipeta met with President Taft.
Colorow was a leader among the White River (or Yamparika) band of Utes. Colorow and his followers defended the traditional Ute way of life and resisted miners and other white settlers who claimed their land. In the spring of 1879, Colorow's followers were pressured by local Indian agent Nathan Meeker to farm in a field they had traditionally used to race horses. Meeker misunderstood how important horses were to the Ute people and he brought about a confrontation with the band. Meeker was killed in the violence that followed.

The events of 1879 were used as grounds for removing the Yamparika and Uncompahgre bands from Colorado onto a reservation in Utah know as the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. Colorow and his followers left Colorado reluctantly, though he never gave up resisting the invasion of the Ute homeland by white settlers. Today, many of his descendents live on the Ute reservations in Colorado and Utah.