The Ute Indians were a group of Indians that lived mostly around themountainous area of Utah and Colorado near the Colorado River. But theysometimes lived in dessert areas also. The word Ute comes from the word eutawor yuta which means dwellers on the top of mountains. Although it is notcertain where they originated but it is assumed that they arrived to theColorado and Utah area around 1000 A.D. The Ute Indians spoke a part of theUto-Aztecan language called Numic.
The Utes were divided into bands or a subdivision of a tribe. Therewere at one time eleven different bands of Ute Indians. The type of housing ineach band depended on the material available. They lived in teepees, lodges,and domed shaped structures. The lodge shaped structure was the Ute’straditional mean of shelter. These home were temporary because the Utes movedevery season to hunt. The dome shelters were built out of willow branches overa pole frame. They were eight feet high and fifteen feet in diameter. Theyusually built their homes on a river or stream valley and were scattered to takeadvantage of wood, shade and other resources. In the winter they moved intolower elevations for the milder weather there.
Children were very important in the Ute Indian tribe. Every member wasresponsible for caring and the education of the youth. Babies were held incradle boards that were either made of willow branches bundled together or asolid piece of wood. Willow bark was often used as diapers. Babies were caredfor by girls nine and up. The babies were delivered in a special shelter thatwas set aside for giving birth. During the birth the mother is usually assistedby another female tribe member. The husband was expected to help the wife bykeeping her warm by bringing lots of firewood. The umbilical cord was cut offwith a stone knife. When the remaining part fell off the mother always saved itin a special pouch that was attached to the babies cradle board. When the babylearned to walk the mother placed the umbilical cord on a red ant hill. Theythought that would help the ants industrious ways to rub off. The children weregiven many names and nicknames in their life. These names were given to themduring various occasions during their life, like when they were born and whenthey learned how to walk. The children were educated by watching and helpingtheir elders.
Everything that the Ute needed could be found in their territory. Thewestern part of the Ute territory ate more of plant life. The diet of theeastern part consisted mainly of meat. But the Ute only practiced agriculturefor a brief period of time. A major plant resource was nuts that were found inthe pinon pine tree’s cone. The nuts were gathered by knocking them off thetree with long sticks. During the pinon harvesting season deer were also huntedfor their venison. Besides those foods the Ute also ate wild potatoes, variousroots, berries, and fruit. Food was prepared in many ways such as using them instews or drying them for winter. Crickets and grasshoppers were sometimes usedin stews for extra taste. They also grew tobacco for use in religiousceremonies or in tribal customs.
Men also went hunting when not helping with the collection of berriesand nuts. The Ute hunted and fished many things. Some of the things theyhunted were buffalo, elk, whitetail deer, mule deer, antelope, mountain sheep,moose, jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits. They also hunted birds and variousinsects. The bow and arrow was their main tool for hunting. They had two typesof bows, wooden and horn bows. The wooden bows were long, thin pieces of wood.
The horn bows were made out of mountain sheeps horns. They were split andshaped, next sinew was wrapped around them to give them more strength. Thearrows were about two feet long with a fire hardened end and a stone point.
When hunting fish they either speared them or shot them with a special barbedarrow. In the winter shelters were built on frozen lakes and holes were cutinto the ice for fishing.
The Ute dressed simply but some of their clothing was decorated withbeads and patterns. The men often dressed in a deerskin breechcloth or leggings.
When colder they wore a deerskin shirt. They wore moccasins or sandals on theirfeet. The woman wore skirts or long dresses all made out of deerskin wove withbark or reeds. The Ute also liked to wear jewelry. They wore small polishedbones in their noses. They wore necklaces made of materials like animal claws,bone beads, stones and sometimes seeds. On special occasions they would painttheir faces with white, black, red, blue or green face paints.
The Ute weren’t just all work and no play. They took a lot of time toplay games. They played such games as dice, where if someone rolled certainsymbols they would win. They also played games that were similar to baseballand kickball. A favorite game among the men was a dart game where someone wouldroll a hoop out in front of a person with the darts and the person would try tothrow the darts in the middle of the hoop.
Today there are about seven thousand Utes still remaining. Many of themstill remain in the Colorado, Utah area. There are a few reservations in thatarea. The remaining Utes today are troubled with unemployment and alcohol abuseis a serious problem for them. Most of this is caused by lack of education andskills training. The Ute reservation recently opened a casino which gave manyUtes a job. It also gave them an opportunity to have a better life and a morehopeful future. Category: Social Issues