Study Guide: The Utes

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Skin bags and baskets were used to carry goods. Men and women wore woven and leather clothing and rabbit skin robes. They wore their hair long or in braids. Men could have multiple wives, and divorce was common and easy. There were restrictions for menstruating women and couples who were pregnant. Children were encouraged to be industrious through several rituals.


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When someone died, that person was buried in their best clothes with their head facing east. Their possessions were generally destroyed and their horses either had their hair cut or they were killed. Occasionally members of Ute bands met up to trade, intermarry, and practice ceremonies, like the annual spring Bear Dance. The Ute were divided into several nomadic and closely associated bands, which today mostly are organized as the Northern, Southern, and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes.

Hunting and gathering groups of extended families were led by older members by the midth century. Activities, like hunting buffalo and trading, may have been organized by band members. Chiefs led bands when structure was required with the introduction of horses to plan for defense, buffalo hunting, and raiding. Bands came together for tribal activities by the 18th century. Multiple bands of Utes that were classified as Uintahs by the U. There are also other half-Ute bands, some of whom migrated seasonally far from their home domain. They also intermarried with Paiute , Bannock and Western Shoshone people.

They generally had poor relations with Northern and Eastern Shoshone. The first encounter between the Utes and the Spanish occurred before , perhaps as early as when they knew about the high quality deerskin produced by the Utes. They traded with the Spanish in the San Luis Valley beginning in the s, in northern New Mexico beginning in the early s, and in Ute villages in what is now western Colorado and eastern Utah.

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The Utes, the main trading partners of the Spanish residents of New Mexico, were known for their soft, high quality tanned deer skins, or chamois, and they also traded meat, buffalo robes and Indian and Spanish captives taken by the Comanche. The Utes traded their goods for cloth, blankets, guns, horses, maize, flour, and ornaments.

A number of Ute learned Spanish through trading. The Spanish "seriously guarded" trade with the Utes, limiting it to annual caravans, but by they were reliant on the trade with the Utes, their deerskin being a highly sought commodity. The Utes also traded in slaves, women and children captives from Apache, Comanche, Paiute, and Navajo tribes.

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In , the Spanish fought with the Utes, 80 of whom were captured and enslaved. Three people escaped with horses. They became more mobile, more able to trade, and better able to hunt large game. Ute culture changed dramatically in ways that paralleled the Plains Indian cultures of the Great Plains. They also became involved in the horse and slave trades and respected warriors. With greater mobility, there was increased need for political leadership. During this time, few people entered Ute territory.

Exceptions to this include the Dominguez—Escalante expedition of and French trappers passing through the area or establishing trading posts beginning in the s. After the Utes acquired horses, they were involved with raids of other Native American tribes. While their close relatives, the Comanches , moved out from the mountains and became Plains Indians as did others including the Cheyenne , Arapaho , Kiowa , and Plains Apache , the Utes remained close to their ancestral homeland. They fought with Plains Indians , including the Comanche who had previously been allies.

The Ute were sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile to the Navajo. The Utes were skilled warriors who specialized in horse mounted combat. War with neighboring tribes was mostly fought for gaining prestige, stealing horses, and revenge. Men would organize themselves into war parties made up of warriors, medicine men, and a war chief who led the party. To prepare themselves for battle Ute warriors would often fast, participate in sweat lodge ceremonies, and paint their faces and horses for special symbolic meanings.

The Utes were master horsemen and could execute daring maneuvers on horseback while in battle. Most plains Indians had warrior societies, but the Ute generally did not - the Southern Utes developed such societies late, and soon lost them in reservation life. Warriors were exclusively men but women often followed behind war parties to help gather loot and sing songs. Women also performed the Lame Dance to symbolize having to pull or carry heavy loads of loot after a raid. Native Americans also traded at annual trade fairs in New Mexico, which were also ceremonial and social events lasting up to ten days or more.

They involved the trading of skins, furs, foods, pottery, horses, clothing, and blankets. In Utah, Utes began to be impacted by European-American contact with the arrival of Mormon settlers. After initial settlement by the Mormons, as they moved south to the Wasatch Front, Utes were pushed off their land. There was continued pressure by the Mormons to push the Utah Utes off their land.

A reservation was also established in in Colorado.

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Following acquisition of Ute territory from Mexico by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo the United States made a series of treaties with the Ute and executive orders that ultimately culminated with relocation to reservations:. The tribe is a member of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes. The tribe owns the Red Cedar Gathering Company, which owns and operates natural gas pipelines in and near the reservation.

It has expanded to explore for and produce oil and natural gas in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. It hosts the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally [58] each year. Twelve ranches are held by tribal land trusts rather than family allotments. The tribe holds fee patent on 40, Their land includes the sacred Ute Mountain. The Ute Mountain Utes are descendants of the Weeminuche band, [60] who moved to the western end of the Southern Ute Reservation in They were led by Chief Ignacio , for whom the eastern capital is named.

Prior to living on reservations, Utes shared land with other tribal members according to a traditional societal property system. Instead of recognizing this lifestyle, the U. The Utes were intended to farm the land, which also was a forced vocational change.

Some tribes, like the Uintah and Uncompahgre were given arable land, while others were allocated land that was not suited to farming and they resisted being forced to farm. The Weeminuches successfully implemented a shared property system from their allotted land. There was a dramatic reduction in the Ute population, partly attributed to Utes moving off the reservation or resisting being counted.

This is partly because many people have returned to reservations, including those who left to attain college educations and careers.

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Utes have self-governed since the Indian Reorganization Act of Elections are held to select tribal council members. The Ute Mountain Tribe used their money, including what they earned from mineral leases, to invest in tourist related and other enterprises in the s. In , a group of mixed blood Utes were legally separated from the Northern Utes and called the Affiliated Ute Citizens. All Ute reservations are involved in oil and gas leases and are members of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes. The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe generates revenues through gas and oil, mineral sales, casinos, stock raising, and a pottery industry.

The tribes make some money on tourism and timber sales.

Artistic endeavors include basketry and beadwork. The annual household income is well below that of their non-native neighbors. Unemployment is high on the reservation, in large part due to discrimination, and half of the tribal members work for the government of the United States or the tribe.


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  • The Ute language is still spoken on the reservation. Housing is generally adequate and modern. There are annual performance of the Bear and Sun dances. All tribes have scholarship programs for college educations. The age expectancy there was 40 years of age as of Utes have believed that all living things possess supernatural power. Shamans, people of both genders, receive power from dreams and some take vision quests.