Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Relutant Immigrants of Utah: The Uncompahgre Utes
This is the third in a series of articles about my father's thesis.  In the first two articles, we saw how the residents of Colorado, and the U.S. government slowly reduced the size of Ute Country.  However they had not gained their ultimate goal of expelling the Utes from Colorado.  The opportunity came with the Meeker Massacre in September 1879.  Nathan Meeker was the BIA superintendent over the White River Utes, and was very intent on forcing the Utes to farm.  He enlisted the help of the army.  The Utes ask that the army hold off and when they came anyway, the ambushed them.  Then a group when and attacked the agency, killing Meeker and others.  Some women and children were captured.  Ouray chastised the White River Utes for their actions, and insisted they return their captives, which they did.
This action however lead to renewed negotiations with regards to land.  The clamour of the population and governor of Colorado was that all Utes must leave.  A party went East, and thought they were giving away the mountains, not the valleys, of their land.  However the government insisted they gave away all their territory, and another place was to be found.  The treat specified the area around Grand Junction, unless not enough land could be found then they could also find land in Utah.  The agents who helped in finding an alternative sight of the Uncompahgre, were all supporters of Colorado.  They insisted there was not enough farm land in this area, and found an alternative location in Utah.  This is an area left alone by Mormon settlers, because the area was so arid and barren.  However the Ouray extension of the Uintah reservation was set aside for them.  The Uncompahgre were ordered to Utah.  "To the Uncompahgres the possibility of their being evicted from their homeland of ages was like a nightmare that surely must pass." (p 125)
After the Meeker incident, the Army was well positioned in Colorado.  They congregated close to the Uncompahgre reservations, six regiments and Calvary and nine of infantry.  Finally, in August of 1881 the order was given that the native population must leave.  They were given one day to decide if  they would leave peacefully or fight.  The reluctantly consented.
Agent Berry that the departure was "cheerful and happy."  However a local paper described the scene, "There can be no doubt that the very heart of the Ute was torn by his giving up and removal from the time-out-of-memory abiding place of their people.  The kissed and seeming endeavored to embrace the ground; they raised their hands and eyes filled with tears; in moaning prayers to the hills and sky; their words and hearts were burdened with sore lamentation and sorrow." (The Gunnison Review, Oct 1, 1881)
By the end of October the Uncompahgre were relocated.  Their new land was very poor, much worse the the White River Utes who instigated the Meeker Massacre.  The only means of survival was to leave the reservation and hunt as it was surrounded by mountain ranger on three sides.
The first treat by the u.s. government was in 1849.  Within a little more than thirty years, they had been removed from Colorado and lost all their land.  During this time they had also lost over half of their population to disease and encroachment.
My only desire with my dad's thesis is that he had talked more of the effects after the removal to Utah.

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