Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review: The Ute Indians

The Ute Indians of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, by: Virginia McConnell Simmons, University Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 2000.
This is a fairly extensive history.  It starts from the earliest history of the Ute, what were their origins? Etc.  How do they relate to the Anasazi or the Fremont Indians. 
The original territory of the Ute was quite extensive.  They lived from Western Utah through Colorado to Denver and into New Mexico.  Their hunting grounds extended further than this.  They were quite war like and their traditional enemies included the Cheyenne, Navajo and Arapaho.  The tradition was that if a tribe killed one of yours, then you had to kill one of theirs and so on.  This also included raids to steal possessions.  When the horse became prevalent this was a coveted item, but also made raids much more efficient and possible. 
The first contact of the Ute with whites was with the Spanish and then Mexican.  This included the Dominguez Escalante exploration.  Relations with the Mexican government where generally quite cool.  This because of the raiding like nature of the Ute.  However, transition to American government only made things worse.
This history relates who the traditional territories of the Ute were slowly eroded.  In Colorado, The Uncompagre were removed to Utah.  The Southern reservations remained, but most of the original native American land was removed, including that that was given by treaty. 
Chief Ouray was an important figure in this history.  He was selected to be the head chief, by the government rather than his fellow Indians.  He negotiated several treaties, giving away land for annuity subsidies. 
This book gives a fairly good account of the affair at the Meeker massacre, in which the White River Utes killed the BIA agent Nathan Meeker, and several of his staff, and took the women hostages.  Ouray intervened and ordered the hostages be released and they stop fighting.  The Indians were expected to subsist with farming and education.  Farming was always a hard sell because of the poor lands given.  Cattle grazing was a much more viable option.  Education also was a bit of a hard sell for a time, but many tribal members have taken advantage of free tuition and other incentives to get an education.
I missed more detail as to why everyone was moved to Utah.  It seemed to skip over this other than saying it happened.  However, this book is failry good reading.

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