Wild Horse Mesa, Colorado Forums San Luis Valley, Colorado Forum Ute Indian History in Colorado

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    Jerry Lucas
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    Ute Indians on horseback crossing riverA new Ute Indian History core exhibit “Written on the Land: Ute Voices, Ute History” opened December 8, 2018 and will run for 5 years at the History Colorado Center in Denver. Ute History exhibit

    The exhibit includes traditional art, photographs, videos and over 200 artifacts, including beadwork, clothing, baskets, crafts, stone tools, carved instruments, and wooden saddles.

    Hear stories told by tribal elders and the voices of today’s Ute people who live in Colorado and Utah.

    Prehistoric nomadic hunters came to the San Luis Valley 11,000 years ago for the abundant game. The nomadic Utes were here before Spanish explorer Coronado arrived in 1540, bringing 1200 horses and pack mules, along with cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens. But, Spanish custom at that time was to only bring stallions on expeditions.

    bison buffalo herdUtes were one of the first tribes to use horses. Before horses, dogs were used to pull sleds holding possessions. They traded dried animal meat, hides and buffalo robes for horses, or stole horses in raids on Spanish settlements in New Mexico.

    Indian use of horses increased after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. In the early 1800s, the price of an ordinary riding horse was 8 buffalo robes.

    Ute people often adorned their horses in beads, woven cloth, headstalls, silver and paint, along with decorative saddles, reins, and other tack.

    Horses were presented as impressive gifts to a potential bride’s family. Horse racing was also important: the faster the horse, the greater its value in a trade.

    Horses were painted before battle. Prized horses were buried with their owners.

    Today, about 4,000 Southern Utes and Ute Mountain Utes live on two reservations near Durango, Colorado. Another 3,000 Northern Utes live in Utah.

    From the Ute Dictionary, 2016, by T. Givon, White Cloud Ranch, Ignacio, Colorado, the Ute word for horse is kava, from Spanish caballo. Wild Horse Mesa would be Yuaa Kava Sipa’ni.

    The Southern Ute Museum is located on the reservation in Ignacio, CO Southern Ute Museum

    The Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center museum in San Luis, open weekends, has exhibits about local history. Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center

    There is a Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, Colorado. Ute Indian Museum, Montrose

    See our list of San Luis Valley and Ute Indian history videos.

    Note: In 2018, Rich Snyder, a landowner at Wild Horse Mesa, donated his land to the Ute Tribe in Utah, after discovering Native American buildings and a burial site on his property. See article on The Ute Indian Tribe PAC website at Colorado Land Returned to the Ute Indian Tribe.

    There were also prehistoric Paleo-Indian hunters in the valley for thousands of years, hunting large animals (megafauna) that are now extinct. The Mountaineer Archaeological Site, on top of Tenderfoot Mountain, near Gunnison, has a stone structure, tools and bone fragments dated from 10,400 BC. The site is about 120 miles northwest of San Luis.

    When walking or digging on your property, be alert for bones, structures and historic artifacts. If you discover human bones, contact the county coroner and sheriff. If you discover old structures or artifacts, contact the Colorado State Archaeologist for instructions at Colorado State Archaeologist

    Artifacts found on state or local government land belong to the state. Artifacts other than burial artifacts found on private land belong to the property owner. See Colorado law on historic and archaeological resources, CRS 24-80-401.

    • This topic was modified 6 months ago by  Jerry Lucas.
    • This topic was modified 6 months ago by  Jerry Lucas.
    • This topic was modified 6 months ago by  Jerry Lucas.
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