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Negotiations create confusion between the Utes and pioneers

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Photo courtesy of John M. Motter The date and location of this trainload of buildings are not identified. It is suspected to be a New Mexico Lumber Company train and the location is along today’s U.S. 84 between Squaw Valley and the eastward turnoff for the Upper Blanco Basin. That portion of U.S. 84 was not built until the 1930s, when it was built on the bed of the New Mexico Lumber Company tracks that ran as far north as Mill Creek. If you know what you are looking at, you can still see remains of the old railbed beside the highway. The man on the left side of the engine is believed to be Alfred Black, a member of an early Pagosa family.

Photo courtesy of John M. Motter
The date and location of this trainload of buildings are not identified. It is suspected to be a New Mexico Lumber Company train and the location is along today’s U.S. 84 between Squaw Valley and the eastward turnoff for the Upper Blanco Basin. That portion of U.S. 84 was not built until the 1930s, when it was built on the bed of the New Mexico Lumber Company tracks that ran as far north as Mill Creek. If you know what you are looking at, you can still see remains of the old railbed beside the highway. The man on the left side of the engine is believed to be Alfred Black, a member of an early Pagosa family.

We’ve been talking about contact between the Southern Utes and white pioneers during the years Pagosa Country was being settled, roughly between 1876 and 1885.

As we mentioned last week, Ouray is the best remembered name from the days of our pioneer ancestors. Technically speaking, Ouray was not even a Southern Ute. The whites chose to negotiate with Ouray because he was influential among many of the Ute bands. Ouray and his wife Chipeta were members of the Tabeguache band of Utes who lived in the Gunnison River/Uncompahgre region north of the San Juan Mountains.

This is a good time to point out that there was a great deal of misunderstanding following apparent joint agreements in 1864, 1868, 1874 and 1878, and maybe others. A major source of confusion stemmed from a U.S. practice of negotiating with Indians from only one or two tribes and then applying the terms of the negotiations to several tribes not represented at the meetings. I don’t know if the confusion caused by this practice was intentional or accidental.

In any case, whites knew Ouray better than any of the other Ute leaders. Ouray also seemed to be aware that the U.S. had the capability of sending millions of troops to the battlefield against a maximum of a few thousand Ute warriors. In addition, the U.S. had an unlimited supply of weapons and ammunition. The Utes had to find a way to obtain weapons and ammunition from their opponents.

Among the several bands of Utes were several leaders in addition to Ouray. One of those leaders was Buckskin Charley who was born around 1840 and was a leader among the Mauche, Severo, and Capote bands of Utes before his death in 1936. His mother was Jicarilla Apache and his Indian name was Sapiah. The name Charles Buck was given him by whites. During a fight with the Comanche, he was creased by a rifle bullet and he carried the scar to his grave.

Ignacio was born in 1828 and died in 1913 and was buried at Tawoac where he had been a leader of the Weminuche band of Utes. He was tall for a Ute, being six feet two inches in height.

Colorow was known to whites all over Colorado. He was born a Comanche but raised by White River Utes in northwestern Colorado after being captured as a child. According to Welch Nossaman, Colorow burned the first log cabin he built in what was to become Pagosa Springs in 1876. Colorow died in 1908.

This story was posted on January 30, 2014.