Tapestry of a Tribe: The Story of the Ute Indians
“You think you own whatever land you land on
The earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name.”
And so it is with the Ute Indians, a people with great respect and admiration for the land and its inhabitants weaving like threads throughout the tapestry that is their culturally rich heritage. Not unlike other Native American tribes, the Utes feel a deep connection to the land that is their home. All they believe and everything they do is a direct result of this connection and their desire to survive through cooperation with the natural resources that surround them. The story of the Utes is one that spans over a thousand years. It is a story of a people who believe that a great spirit made the world for them, who work with nature rather than against it, and who learned to adapt to meet the challenges they encountered. When first the Spanish and then the Europeans set foot on Ute territory; however, everything changed for the Utes, making the story of the modern day Utes one of tragedy, injustice, and the strength of a people determined to persevere.
No one can really say when the Utes first came to the Colorado Plateau area of the Great basin or where exactly they came from. Their nomadic nature left little in the way of anthropological evidence to support an exact time of arrival and there are many theories surrounding their origin. Nevertheless, scientists seem to have agreed that the Utes most likely entered the area of the Colorado Plateau sometime around 1200 AD. Prior to the Utes occupation of this area, there were two great Indian nations who called the Plateau area home – the Fremont and the Anasazi. Some people speculate that the Utes forced the Fremonts and Anasazi out of the Great Basin, while others claim, “that climatic conditions favorable for farming seem to have changed during this period” (History 1), forcing the Fremonts and Anasazi out of the area. Nevertheless, over time, the Ute people claimed this region as their home and thus began the love story of the Utes and the Colorado Plateau.
As with many of the Native American tribes, the Utes believe in a great spirit, a singular deity who created the land and its inhabitants. In the Ute tradition, this creator is named Sinawaf who, along with his brothers, Coyote and Wolf, “kept the world in balance before the world was created” (Utah 1). The eventual creation of the world is seen by the Utes as a cooperative effort by Sinawaf and numerous animals like Hawk, Eagle, Coyote, Wolf, and Buffalo, all of whom played a role in designating the seasons. Once everything had been decided, the animals each chose their own place of habitation. This was not necessarily the best thing that could have happened though as, once separated, they began to speak different languages and disagree, just as people do...