The Ute Indians



The Ute Indians were a group of Indians that lived mostly around the
mountainous area of Utah and Colorado near the Colorado River. But they
sometimes lived in dessert areas also. The word Ute comes from the word eutaw
or yuta which means dwellers on the top of mountains. Although it is not
certain where they originated but it is assumed that they arrived to the
Colorado and Utah area around 1000 A.D. The Ute Indians spoke a part of the
Uto-Aztecan language called Numic.
The Utes were divided into bands or a subdivision of a tribe. There
were at one time eleven different bands of Ute Indians. The type of housing in
each band depended on the material available. They lived in teepees, lodges,
and domed shaped structures. The lodge shaped structure was the Ute\'s
traditional mean of shelter. These home were temporary because the Utes moved
every season to hunt. The dome shelters were built out of willow branches over
a pole frame. They were eight feet high and fifteen feet in diameter. They
usually built their homes on a river or stream valley and were scattered to take
advantage of wood, shade and other resources. In the winter they moved into
lower elevations for the milder weather there.
Children were very important in the Ute Indian tribe. Every member was
responsible for caring and the education of the youth. Babies were held in
cradle boards that were either made of willow branches bundled together or a
solid piece of wood. Willow bark was often used as diapers. Babies were cared
for by girls nine and up. The babies were delivered in a special shelter that
was set aside for giving birth. During the birth the mother is usually assisted
by another female tribe member. The husband was expected to help the wife by
keeping her warm by bringing lots of firewood. The umbilical cord was cut off
with a stone knife. When the remaining part fell off the mother always saved it
in a special pouch that was attached to the babies cradle board. When the baby
learned to walk the mother placed the umbilical cord on a red ant hill. They
thought that would help the ants industrious ways to rub off. The children were
given many names and nicknames in their life. These names were given to them
during various occasions during their life, like when they were born and when
they learned how to walk. The children were educated by watching and helping
their elders.
Everything that the Ute needed could be found in their territory. The
western part of the Ute territory ate more of plant life. The diet of the
eastern part consisted mainly of meat. But the Ute only practiced agriculture
for a brief period of time. A major plant resource was nuts that were found in
the pinon pine tree\'s cone. The nuts were gathered by knocking them off the
tree with long sticks. During the pinon harvesting season deer were also hunted
for their venison. Besides those foods the Ute also ate wild potatoes, various
roots, berries, and fruit. Food was prepared in many ways such as using them in
stews or drying them for winter. Crickets and grasshoppers were sometimes used
in stews for extra taste. They also grew tobacco for use in religious
ceremonies or in tribal customs.
Men also went hunting when not helping with the collection of berries
and nuts. The Ute hunted and fished many things. Some of the things they
hunted were buffalo, elk, whitetail deer, mule deer, antelope, mountain sheep,
moose, jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits. They also hunted birds and various
insects. The bow and arrow was their main tool for hunting. They had two types
of 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 and
shaped, next sinew was wrapped around them to give them more strength. The
arrows 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 barbed
arrow. In the winter shelters were built on frozen lakes and holes were cut
into the ice for fishing.
The Ute dressed simply but some of their clothing was decorated with
beads 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 their
feet. The woman wore skirts or long dresses