Ute Tribe

Ute Indians. An important Shoshonean division, related linguistically to the Paiute, Chemehuevi, Kawaiisu, and Bannock. They formerly occupied the entire central and west portions of Colorado and the east portion of Utah, including the east part of Salt Lake valley and Utah valley. On the south they extended into New Mexico, occupying much of the upper drainage area of the San Juan.

They appear to have always been a warlike people, and early came into possession of horses, which intensified their aggressive character. None of the tribes practiced agriculture. Very little is known of their social and political organization, although the seven Ute tribes of Utah were at one time organized into a confederacy under chief Tabby (Taíwi). Dialectic differences exist in the language, but these do not appear to be great and probably presented little difficulty to intercourse between the several bands or geographical bodies. In the north part of their range, in Utah, they appear to have become considerably intermixed by marriage with their Shoshoni, Bannock, and Paiute kindred, and on the south with the Jicarilla Apache.

Ute Tribe History

The first treaty with the Ute, one of peace and amity, was concluded Dec. 30, 1849. By Executive order of Oct. 3, 1861, Uintah valley was set apart for the Uinta tribe and the remainder of the land claimed by them was taken without formal purchase. By treaty of Oct. 7, 1863, the Tabeguache were assigned a reservation and the remainder of their land was ceded to the United States. On May 5, 1864, various reserves, established in 1856 and 1859 by Indian agents, were ordered vacated and sold. By treaty of Mar. 2, 1868, a reservation for the Tabeguache, Moache, Capote, Wiminuche, Yampa, Grand River, Uinta, and other bands was created in Colorado and the remainder of their lands relinquished; but by agreement of Sept. 13, 1873, a part of this 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 Aug. 17, 1876. By Executive order of Nov. 22, 1875, the Ute reservation was enlarged, but this additional tract was restored to the public domain by order of Aug. 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 was repealed and several tracts included in the reservations there under established were restored to the public domain.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 agreement of Nov. 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, which was done by Executive order of Feb. 7, 1879. On Mar. 6,1880, the Southern Ute and the Uncompahgre acknowledged an agreement to settle respectively on La Plata River and on the Grand 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 Jan. 5, 1882, established a reserve for them in Utah, the boundaries of which were defined by Executive order of Jan. 5, 1882. By act of May 24, 1888, a part of the Uinta reservation was restored to the public domain.

The Southern Ute lands in Colorado were in part subsequently allotted in severalty, and on Apr. 13, 1899, 523,079 acres were opened to settlement, the remainder (483, 750 acres) being retained as a reservation for the Wiminuche. A large part of the Uinta valley reservation in Utah has also been allotted in severalty, more than a million acres set aside as forest and other reserves, and Inure than a million acres more opened to homestead entry;. the residue (179,194 acres under reclamation) is unallotted and unreserved. Of the Uncompahgre reservation in Utah, 12,540 acres have been allotted and the remainder restored to the public domain by act of June 7, 1897.

Various numerical estimates of the Ute have been made from time to time, but they are generally unreliable. The restless character of these Indians and their unfriendly spirit have rendered a correct census or even a fair estimate impossible. Some estimates have included many Paiute, while others have included only a portion of the Ute proper, so that the figures have varied from 3,000 to 10,000. An estimate of 4,000 for the year 1870 would probably be within safe bounds. It is not likely that the combined numbers of the several Ute bands ever exceeded 10,000. The official reports give 3,391 as on the several reservations in 1885, and 2,014 in 1909. They have been classed as follows: Capote, Cumumbah, Kosunats, Moache, Pahvant, Pikakwanarats, Sanpet, Seuvarits, Tabeguache, Timpaiavats, Uinta, Wiminuche, Yampa. According to Hrdlička the three divisions now recognized by the Ute are Tabeguache or Uncompahgre, Kaviawach or White River Ute, and Yoovte or Uinta. Sogup and Yubuincariri are given as the names of former bands. Most of the divisional names have become obsolete, at least in official reports, and the Ute on the several reservations are now classed under collective terms. These, with their numbers in 1909, were as follows: Wiminuche under the Ft Lewis school, Colo., 454; Capote and Moache under the Southern Ute school, Colo., 352; Uinta (443), Uncompahgre (469), and White River Ute (296) under the Uintah and Ouray agency, Utah.

In July, 1879, about 100 men of the White River agency, Colo., roamed from their reservation into south Wyoming to hunt. During this time some forests were fired by railway tiemen, resulting in great loss of timber, and calling forth complaint against the Indians, who were ordered to remain henceforth on their reservation. In Sept. the agent, Meeker, was assaulted after a quarrel with a petty chief, and requested military aid, which was granted. Orders were later issued for the arrest of the Indians charged with the recent forest fires, and Maj. Thornburgh was sent with a force of 190 men. Suspecting the outcome, the Indians procured ammunition from neighboring traders and informed the agent that the appearance of the troops would be regarded as an act of war. On Sept. 20 Thornburgh’s detachment was ambushed, and their leader and 13 men were killed. The command fell back. On Oct. 2 a company of cavalry arrived, and 3 days later Col. Merritt with 600 troops reached the scene. At or near the agency the bodies of Meeker and 7 employees were found; all but one of the agency buildings had been rifled and burned. The conflict was soon ended, mainly through the peaceful attitude and influence of chief Ouray.

In the summer of 1906 about 400 Ute, chiefly of the White River band, left their allotments and the Uintah reservation in Utah to go to the Pine Ridge reservation, South Dakota, there to enjoy an unrestricted communal life. They made the journey leisurely, and although no depredations were committed on the way, settlers became alarmed. Every peaceful effort was made to induce the absentees to return to Utah, but all excepting 45, who returned home, remained obdurate, and after having been charged with petty thefts while in Wyoming, the matter was placed under the jurisdiction of the War Department, troops were sent to the scene in October, and the Indians accompanied them peacefully to Ft Meade, South Dakota, in November. In the following spring (1907) arrangements were made whereby the absentee Ute were assigned 4 townships of the Cheyenne River reservation, South Dakota, which was leased by the Government, at the expense of the the annuity fund, for 5 years. The Indians were removed in June to their new lands, where they remained until the following June (1908), when, at their own request, they were returned to their old home in Utah, arriving there in October.

Divisions of the Ute Tribe

Cumumbah Indians

A division of the Ute, formerly living in Salt Lake, Weber, and Ogden valleys, Utah. They are said to have been a mixture of Ute and Shoshoni, the Ute element largely predominating in their language; pop. 800 in 1885. They are not now separately enumerated.

Yampa Indians

A division of Ute formerly living in east Utah on and about Green and Grand Rivers. In 1849 they occupied 500 lodges. The name does not appear in recent official reports, and the original Yampa are included under the term White River Ute. The Akanaquint arid Grand River Ute were bands of this division.

Grand River Ute

A band of the Yampa. Under Chief Piah they formerly ranged as far east as Denver, Colorado. They numbered 350 in 1873.


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top