Information about the Ute

The Utes are an ethnically related group of American Indians (Native Americans) now living primarily in Utah and Colorado. There are three Ute tribal reservations: (1) Uintah-Ouray in northeastern Utah (3,500 members), (2) Southern Ute (1,300 members) and (3) Ute Mountain (2,000 members) both in southwestern Colorado. The name of the state of Utah was derived from the word Ute.


The native Ute language belongs to the Uto-Aztecan (Shoshone) family of languages and is a dialect of Southern Numic. However, most current Utes speak only English. Other American Indian groups with native Shoshonean dialects include the Bannocks, Comanches, Chemehuevi, Goshutes, Paiutes and Shoshones.


Prior to the arrival of white settlers, the Utes occupied significant portions of what are today eastern Utah, western Colorado and parts of New Mexico and Wyoming. The Utes were never a unified group; instead, the Utes consisted of numerous nomadic bands that maintained close associations with other neighboring groups. Some of the larger groups included the Moache, Capote, Weeminuche, Uncompahgre, White River, Uintah, Pahvant, Timanogots, San Pitch, Moanumts, Sheberetch and Weeminuche.

Contact with Spanish colonists

The Ute's first contact with Europeans was with early Spanish explorers in the 1630s. Horses were eventually obtained through trading with the Spanish colonists in New Mexico. The subsequent increase in mobility made possible by the horses was instrumental in changing aspects of Ute society in ways that paralleled the Plains Indian cultures of the Central U.S. This social upheaval resulted in various degrees of consolidation, political realignment and tension between the various Ute groups.

Contact with white settlers

The Ute experience with white American settlers is similar to that of many other Native American groups: competition, confrontation and eventual coerced relocation to reservations. Of particular interest are the Walker War (185354) and Black Hawk War (186572) in Utah and the Ute War in Colorado (1879). Over the years, several other skirmishes and incidents occurred between Utes and white settlers in Utah and Colorado. These Ute uprisings were the result of friction between recently arrived settlers and local Ute groups.

Eventually, the various bands of Utes were consolidated onto three reservations. Several of these bands still maintain separate identities as part of the Ute tribal organizations. Although initially large and located in areas that white settlers deemed undesirable (occupying parts of Utah and most of western Colorado), the sizes of these reservations were repeatedly reduced by various government actions, encroachment by white settlers and mining interests. In the 20th century, several U.S. federal court decisions restored portions of the original reservation land to the Ute Tribes' jurisdiction and awarded monetary compensation.

Also see Chief Ouray, an important leader of the Uncompahgre band of the Ute tribe.

Current situation

The current conditions of the Utes are similar to those of many Native Americans living on reservations. Cultural differences between the Utes and the rest of America have contributed to relatively high rates of poverty, educational difficulties and societal marginalization.

Gradual assimilation into American culture has presented both challenges and opportunities for the Utes. The economic condition of the Utes is gradually improving. Oil and gas discoveries on Ute land in Utah hold promise of increased living standards. The Ute reservations in Colorado have recently benefited from tourism in the Four Corners area.

Each spring the Utes hold their traditional Bear Dances. Origin of the Bear Dance can be traced back several centuries. Each year, a mid-summer fasting ceremony known as The Sun Dance is held; this ceremony has important spiritual significance to the Utes.

The above includes excerpts from Wikipedia.org, the free encyclopedia:

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