Pagosa's Past: Government treaties and the Utes

2021/02/oldtimer-021121-AAAArrdepot-300x185.jpg Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Back in the day, the narrow-gauge railroad had a branch which ran from Pagosa Junction to Pagosa Springs. The town railroad station was on 8th Street as shown in this photo. One of the buildings remains.

By John M. Motter

PREVIEW Columnist

During Pagosa Country’s pioneer days, relations between the invading whites and the Utes followed a precedent repeated frequently across the North American continent: encroachment by the whites, battles and incidents, the Army called in, treaties, land set aside for the Native Americans, more encroachments, more incidents, more Army intervention, more treaties, etc., etc.

First for the Utes was the Calhoun Treaty of 1850 in which the United States promised to protect the Ute Indians if they would cease raiding in northern New Mexico, recognize U.S. government jurisdiction over their lands, adopt the U.S. government’s laws and follow the U.S. government’s Indian policies.

The provision allowing the U.S. government to enter the reservation violated the Calhoun Treaty. It is doubtful if the Indians understood this treaty’s provisions. No reservation boundaries were defined, but rations were distributed in Taos as promised in the treaty. The Taos Agency was established to serve all the Southern Utes, but only the Moache visited Taos for rations.

Slowly, the government shifted its agencies northward in an attempt to control all of the various bands of Utes. Abiquiu was made a Capote Ute Agency, but the Moache Utes also picked up rations there.

Goods were also distributed at Maxwell’s ranch near Cimmaron and at Conejos in the San Luis Valley. Finally, in 1863, the government developed a treaty policy for all reservations and located all of the Utes in the San Juan Mountains. More about treaties in next week’s column.