Ute Tribal Paths
Hides for Horses
Horses were important for trade. Ute bands were connected to each other through a trade network that stretched to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Southwest, the Great Basin, and the plains.
The Ute were one of the first American Indian groups to acquire horses and become expert riders. Horses changed Ute life in many ways.
Horses helped the Ute bands unite. Ute family life changed after the arrival of the horse. People began living in large bands and sharing food and responsibility. The traditional seven Ute bands saw each other more often and formed relationships. People enjoyed more free time, which meant more time for religion, storytelling, dancing and recreation.
Ute bands also started living in bigger, more comfortable tipis, which were too heavy to carry before they had horses. It was easier to hunt bison on horseback, and up to twelve bison skins were needed for a tipi.
Ute bands used horses to carry their belongings. They could carry more trade goods on horses than on foot.
The Utes traded hides, deer and bison meat, and bison robes. The Utes traded for horses, guns, corn, wheat flour, tobacco, sugar, cotton blankets, metal tools, coffee, and beads. The goods that made it to the Ute came from as far away as present day Italy, France, Mexico, and Canada as well as from the East and West coast of the United States.
Horses expanded Ute territory. Warriors could travel much faster and farther on horseback than on foot, so Ute bands could more easily defend their boundaries. Even though the Spanish had been using horses much longer, they came to respect the Ute people as riders and warriors.
Hunting was easier with horses. Because it was easier to hunt on horseback, Ute people could get more food, skins and other resources. Ute women were able to make even better quality soft, tanned buckskin from the hides of deer, elk and bison and to spend more time decorating clothing with porcupine quills, tiny glass beads, elk teeth and shells.