Ute Indians

Ute Indians. Significance unknown. Also called:

  • Grasshopper Indians, Pattie (1833).
  • Iätä-go, Kiowa name.
  • Ietan, a form of their name used widely for Indians of the Shoshonean stock.
  • Mactciñgeha wain, Omaha and Ponca name, signifying “rabbit skin robes.’
  • Moh-tau-hai’-to-ni-o, Cheyenne name, signifying “the black men.”
  • Násuia kwe, Zuñi name, signifying “deer-hunting men.”
  • No-ochi or Notch, own name.
  • Nota-á, Navaho name.
  • Quazula, seems to be the Jemez name for them.
  • Sápa wichasha, Dakota name, signifying “black people.”
  • Tâ’hana, Taos name.
  • Tcingawúptuh, former Hopi name.
  • Wáatenǐhts, Atsina name, signifying “black.”

Ute Connections. The Ute belonged to the Shoshonean division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock and were related more closely to the true Paiute, Kawaiisu, and Chemehuevi.

Ute Location. In central and western Colorado and all of eastern Utah, including the eastern part of Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley and extending into the upper drainage area of the San Juan River in New Mexico. (See also Nevada and Wyoming.)

Ute Subdivisions

  • Capote, in the Tierra Amarilla and Chama River country, northwestern New Mexico.
  • Elk Mountain Ute (perhaps the Sabuaguanos of Escalante (1882) and Tah-bah was-chief of Beckwith (1882), especially if the initial letter in one or the other case has been misread, in the Elk Mountains of Colorado.
  • Kosunats, on Uintah Reservation in 1873.
  • Moache, in southwest Colorado and northwest New Mexico.
  • Pahvant, around the lower portion of Sevier Lake and River, Utah.
  • Pavógowunsin, on the upper course of the Sevier River, south of the Salina River.
  • Pikakwanarats, on the Uinta Reservation in 1873.
  • Sampits or Sanpet, around Manti on San Pitch Creek but wintering on Sevier River, Utah.
  • Seuvarits or Sheberetch, in the Castle Valley country and on headwaters of San Rafael River, in east central Utah.
  • Tabeguache, in southwest Colorado, chiefly about Los Pinos.
  • Tumpanogots or Timpaiavats, about Utah Lake, Utah.
  • Uinta, in northeastern Utah.
  • Wiminuche, in southwest Colorado, chiefly in the valley of the San Juan and its northern tributaries.
  • Yampa, on and about Green and Colorado Rivers in eastern Utah.

The Sogup, in or near New Mexico, and Yubuincariri, west of Green River, Utah, are also given as former bands, and a few others of uncertain status also appear, such as the Kwiumpus, Nauwanatats, and Unkapanukints. In later years the recognized divisions were reduced to three: Tabeguache or Uncompahgre, Kaviawach or White River, and Yoovte or Uinta.

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Ute History

The Ute occupied the region above indicated when they came to the knowledge of the Spaniards, who were the first Europeans to encounter them. Their warlike disposition was early accentuated by the introduction of horses among them. Our first intimate knowledge of them is derived from the diary of Fray Silvestre Velez de Escalante, who penetrated their country in 1776. For a brief period they were organized into a confederacy under a chief named Tabby (Taiwi). The first treaty between the United States Government and the Ute was concluded December 30, 1849. By Executive order of October 3, 1861, Uintah Valley was set apart for the Uinta Band, while the remainder of the land claimed by them was taken without formal purchase. By a treaty of October 7, 1863, a reservation was assigned to the Tabeguache, and the remainder of their land was taken without formal purchase. On May 5, 1864, various reserves, established in 1856 and 1859 by Indian agents, were ordered vacated and sold. By a treaty of March 2, 1868, a reservation was created in Colorado for the Tabeguache, Moache, Capote, Wiminuche, Yampa, Grand River, Uinta, and other bands, who relinquished the remainder of their lands, but by an agreement of September 13, 1873, a part of the reservation, was ceded to the United States. When it was found that a portion of this last cession was included in the Uncompahgre Valley, the part so included was retroceded to the Ute by Executive order of August 17, 1876. By Executive order of November 22, 1875,the Ute Reservation was enlarged, but this additional tract was restored to the public domain by an order of August 4, 1882. By Act of June 18, 1878, a portion of the Act of May 5, 1864, was repealed, and several tracts included in the reservations there under established were restored to the public domain. Under an agreement of November 9, 1878, the Moache, Capote, and Wiminuche ceded their right to the confederated Ute Reservation established by the 1868 treaty, the United States agreeing to establish a reservation for them on San Juan River, a promise which was finally fulfilled by Executive order of February 7, 1879. On March 6, 1880, the Southern Ute and the Uncompahgre acknowledged an agreement to settle respectively on La Plata River and on the Grand River near the mouth of the Gunnison, while the White River Ute agreed to move to the Uinta Reservation in Utah. Sufficient agricultural land not being found at the point designated as the future home of the Uncompahgre, the President, by Executive order of January 5, 1882, established a reserve for them in Utah, the boundaries of which were defined by Executive order of the same date. By Act of May 24, 1888, a part of the Uinta Reservation was restored to the public domain. The tribe has since been allotted land in severalty.

Ute Population. Mooney (1928) estimates that there were 4,500 Ute in 1845, including the Gosiute. In 1870 there were supposed to be 4,000. The official reports give 3,391 in 1885 and 2,014 in 1909. The census of 1910 returned 2,244; the United States Indian Office in 1923, 1,922, including some Paiute; and the Indian Office in 1937, 2,163.

Connections in which the Ute have become noted. The Ute shared with the Shoshoni the reputation of being the strongest and most warlike of the Plateau people. The State of Utah derives its name from the Ute. Utah is also the name of a county and a lake in this State. There is a place called Utahville in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, and localities called Ute in Montrose County, Colorado, and Monona County, Iowa, and Ute Park in Colfax County, New Mexico.


Ute Reservation,

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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