An Early Effort to Create the Southern Ute Reservation
Early sketch map outlining the region to the northeast of the confluence of the San Juan River and the Colorado Rivers, showing the regions intended for settlement by the Southern Ute Indians.
The map includes the Glen Canyon Region and the eastern part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The map shows the region of the region of San Juan County, Utah, to which the Utes agreed to move. However, Congress failed to ratify the treaty.
Southern Ute Reservation
The Southern Ute Indians reside on a Reservation in southwestern Colorado near the northern New Mexico state line.
The Southern Ute Indian Reservation was opened in southwestern Colorado. The tribes that originally resided there were the Muache, Capote, and the Weeminuche. These tribes were considered the Southern Utes. The first reservation created by the treaty of 1868 encompassed about 1/3 of present day Colorado, mostly the mountainous regions west of the continental divide. When precious metals and minerals were discovered in the central mountains white settlers started to view the land as valuable, which resulted in a systematic erosion of the Reservation.
In 1873, The Burnot Agreement was created. This agreement limited the reservation to the narrow strip of land that is called The Southern Ute Reservation today. The United States also made treaties with various bands of Ute in 1855, 1865, and 1866, which the Senate failed to ratify. Initially given the whole of eastern Colorado for a reservation, the discovery of gold there in the 1860s brought a quick reduction in territory. The treaty with the Ute in 1865 provided for the cession of land in exchange for the entire valley of the Unitah River in Utah, plus $25,000 per year for ten years, then $20,000 for 20 years, and thereafter $15,000 per year, based on an estimated population of 5,000 Ute. The treaty also banned liquor and provided for the establishment and maintenance of a manual labor school for ten years.
During the late 1870s, the railroads started being built across the country and one line cut right through the reservation bringing white settlers to build it. There were many quarrels between the Indians and the Anglo-American settlers over use of the land. Tensions built and one result was the Beaver massacre in which 11 Indians were killed by Anglo stockman who accused them of butchering some of the settler's cattle. The Meeker Massacre of September 29, 1879 resulted in the death of the Indian agent Nathan Meeker and his men.
Another treaty was created in 1880, in this treaty the southern Ute's agreed to settle on the La Plate River within their reservation. There were many different acts placed forth by the government during the 1880s trying to keep the peace between the Indians and the white settlers.
In 1895 The Hunter Act distributed the land in the reservation in plots to the heads of households in the Mouache and Capote tribes. The Weeminuche tribe had approved a measure of a 1888 congressional bill relocating them to San, Juan County Utah, however this bill did not pass a congressional vote, so the Weeminuche were brought back to Colorado. They refused to go back to the old grounds of the agency, so they established camps on the western end of The Southern Ute Reservation. With the three tribes given their land, the final provisions of the Hunter Act were implemented allowing over 500,000 acres of The Southern Ute Indian Reservation to be open to white American settlers.