Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Uncompahgre Utes: Leading to Their Forced Removal

This the second of three posts I am writing, using my Dad's thesis for material.
The Tabaguache (Uncompahgre) had very little contact with the American culture before 1858.  Kit Carson, who was Indian Agent for the Southern Utes, wrote this description:  They are by far the largest band of the Utahs.  Their main hunting grounds are within the limits of this territory [New Mexico].  They range from the Grand [Colorado] River [on the] West to the headwaters of the Del Norte [Rio Grande] [on the] East....They have never joined any of the bands of the Utahs that have waged war against the citizens of this territory.  I would respectfully suggest that and agent or sub-agent be appointed to reside among them.   They are by far the most noble of the Utah tribes.  They have not, as yet, been contaminated by intercourse with civilized man.
However in 1859 gold was discovered on Pikes Peak, and the Whites began to move into their area.  This resulted in an outbreak of hostilities on both sides.  "With this outbreak of hostilities Kit Carson changed his opinion of the Tabeguache, described them as 'wild and warlike,' recommended they be punished, and withheld supplies he was to deliver them."
In 1861 the Colorado Territory was formed.  In New Mexico the settlers encouraged trade with the Indians.  The attitude of Colorado was they had to be tolerated, and forced onto smaller and smaller parcels of land.
The original Ute territory covered all of the mountainous area of Colorado.  They also frequently left this area, to travel out into the plains to hunt buffalo.  However the same pattern happened over and over.  The Utes, usually through Chief Ouray, negotiated a treaty to cede land to the U.S. with promises of money and promises of protection from White incursion onto the property.  Whites would find some value to the property, agricultural or mineral, move onto the land.  The U.S. Army would threaten eviction if the settlers or miners didn't leave.  The encroachers would not leave, and so another negotiating round would take place.  Often times the agreed upon money would not be given, just enough subsistence to keep the Indians from starving.  Other ways of getting property from the Native Americans would be through surveying, and also by having other tribes cede property which didn't even pertain to them.  It didn't matter, once land was ceded it was never given back.
The last parcel, prime farm land, five mile square, called Uncompahre Park was promised to the Tabeguache.  At first it was surveyed smaller than it was originally.  Then White farmers moved in, as it was a prime place to raise crops for the mines, and finally a negotiation ceding the land for money which was never paid.  Eventually the cry changed from moving the Native population to smaller and smaller poor pieces of land, to "The Utes Must Go!"

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