WEBSITE OF TRIBE: https://www.southernute-nsn.gov/
The Ute people are the oldest residents of Colorado. Not only do the inhabit Colorado but also Utah, Wyoming, Eastern Nevada, Northern New Mexico and Arizona. The Utes speak Shoshonean, which is a dialect of Uto-Aztecan language. The name of the state of Utah was derived from the name Ute. The word Ute means, "Land of the sun" in their language. The Utes were never a unified group within historic times; instead, they consisted of numerous nomadic bands that maintained close associations with other neighboring groups. The Utes settled around the lake areas of Utah.
When the Spaniards began colonizing the west in the 1500s, they were using the routes that the Utes had created. The Utes were greatly influenced by the Spaniards by everything from use of tools and language to disease and population decimation. The two cultures developed trade and were able to learn a lot from each other. As the Europeans began invading their lands more and more and using their resources, the Utes were forced to try to defend their home and thus there were many conflicts that ensued. The Spanish colonists captured Utes (as well as other Native Americans) and made them work as slaves. In 1673, Ute captives began escaping from the Spaniards, taking their horses with them. Thus, the Utes were one of the first Native Americans to acquire horses greatly increasing the ways in which they could hunt and travel. As European invaders noticed the resources that the Ute’s home had to offer, the colonizing in the west increased causing the tribes to become displaced and often relocated to barren lands where it was difficult to live.
Treaties and Agreements with the Utes
A peace treaty, which gave sovereignty to the United States and established boundaries between the Utes in New Mexico and the U.S. was signed on December 30, 1849.
A treaty was signed in 1863 that gave all the mineral rights and lands in San Luis Valley to the Europeans that had settled there and did not recognize the Ute claims to them.
In 1873, the Brunot Agreement negotiated the Ute’s rights to their lands. The treaty was ratified in 1874. This treaty tricked the Utes into signing away about four million acres of land by making them believe that the land would still be theirs but with mining occurring on it. Finally in 2009, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed which gave the Utes hunting and fishing rights in the Brunot area, which is off of their reservation.
In 1895, the Hunter Act created a divide in the small reservation where the Utes lived and made the land available for sale to non-Indians. Allotments were sold to many non-Indians. The Southern Ute tribe had around 300 allotments in the 1940s but that number has greatly decreased.
Southern Utes Reservation
A reservation for the Southern Ute was established in 1868, which consisted of 56 million acres in the western half of Colorado. The Brunot Agreement greatly reduced this land making it difficult for the tribe to continue their hunting and seasonal practices.
In 1895, a 15-mile wide and 110-mile long reservation was established. The Hunter Act made it possible for allotments to go to tribal members and the rest of the land to non-Indians and homesteaders.
The Southern Ute tribe now has a reservation of 1125 square miles.
Ute Water Rights
The United States approved the Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act in 1988. This provided irrigation and municipal and industrial water to the Ute tribes. It also resolved water rights claims to water that the Utes considered to be theirs. The Ute tribes still have no plan concerning water and federal funds for pipelines connecting the reservoir to the reservations are lacking.
“History of the Southern Ute.” Southern Ute Indian Tribe. 2015. Web. 06 March 2015.
The modern day Ute tribe has broken into three smaller sub sections between three different groups, Northern Ute tribe, Southern Ute tribe, and the Mountain Ute tribe. As a whole, present day Utes only occupy a small fraction of their former territories. The current challenges and opportunities that the Ute face are similar to those of other Native American tribes that live on reservations. There are strong cultural differences between Utes and the rest of America that have resulted in poverty, educational difficulties and marginalization in society.
The largest of the three tribes is the Northern Ute that reside on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah. During the mid 20th century, a dispute broke out between the Northern Ute and the other Ute groups during the gain of the new land and reservation. As a result, a Ute Partition Act was put in place that stated that any tribal member with half or less Ute blood was seen as a mixed-blood, which disfranchises them in terms of rights to tribal lands and equal legal treatment. Since 2002, the Ute tribe has been seeking civil action to repeal the Ute Partition Act. After the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Northern Ute group began to buy back former tribal lands. In 1948 they gained the Hill Creek Extension through the government that returned 726,000 acres. Then in the 1980s the Northern Ute tribe was given legal jurisdiction over 3 million acres of alienated reservation lands. Since then discoveries of oil and gas have been made on this land, it holds a promise to increase living standards for Utes. In 1965, the Northern Ute tribe agreed to divert its water from the Unita Basin to the Great Basin. For their cooperation, the US Bureau of Reclamation agreed to build units to provide storage of the tribe’s water. However by 1992, the Bureau of Reclamation had made no progress on following through with their end of the agreement. To compensate the tribe, under Title V of the Central Utah Project Completion Act had a settlement for the Northern Ute tribe to receive $49.0 million for agricultural development, $28.5 million for recreation and fish and wildlife enhancement and $195 million for economic development.
The Southern Ute are one of the wealthiest tribes and claim to have financial assets at around $2 billion. The Southern Ute gained their wealth from gambling, tourism and real estate leases, oil and gas and other off-reservation business investments, such as the Red Cedar Gathering Company and Red Willow Production Company. The Mountain Ute have taken a slower pace in assimilating to American culture.
The Ute tribe has taken to some small part of American culture. In 1963, the book When the Legends Die by Hal Borland was written about a Ute boy growing up on a reservation after his parents die and becoming a rodeo sensation. A movie was later released in 1972. In more recent popular culture, the University of Utah’s athletic department received explicit permission from the tribe to let the athletic teams be known as Utes. This was deemed appropriate since the state of Utah is named after the tribe.