NOTICE: Phillip B Gottfredson and/or the Timpanogos Nation are not affiliated with the "Affiliated Ute Citizens of Utah (ACU)" aka "the 490" aka the "Uintah Valley Shoshone Tribe" or Chairperson Dora Van.


Utah's Timpanogos and Ute Tribe Origins


Phillip B Gottfredson



Tribal identity is absolutely crucial in our understanding of the Black Hawk War in Utah, yet it remains the least understood topic causing inaccuracies in our histories leading to baseless conclusions and false assumptions. Historians mistakenly identify the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Nation as being Ute. This is a common mistake most all historian's have made, myself included. (Learn more about the Timpanogos Nation)

The name "Ute" was born of confusion and it follows it becomes a major task to unravel their correct identity. It was European migrants and trappers who coined the term "Ute" which doesn't appear in Utah history until about 1865, and began as a metonymy (way of speaking) of an Shoshonian Indian word 'u-tah-ats' referring to all Shoshoni who occupied Utah Territory. Or 'Yutas' referring to the Indians who occupied Colorado. The name then shows up in Oregon during the 1890's, and from 1890 to 1930 the term Ute was applied to all Shoshone Tribes. It time it became a blanket term reffering to all Indians occupying Utah territory, and Colorado.

During the 1800's in Utah territory the word u-tah-ats or it's pseudonym 'Ute' had nothing to do with tribal affiliation, rather Tribal geographical location. Example the Shoshonian word 'u-tah-ats' meant to trappers as being the Shoshone Indians who occupy the area around Timpanogos Lake. The word 'Ute' in time was extended by Europeans to include the greater part of all Shoshonis of Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, and Kansas, resulting in much confusion for historians. The northern Paiute of Oregon were in fact Shoshoni. The Shoshone had different names for the Paiute. The Paiute called themselves the "Numa." There were four distinct break-offs from the Shoshoni Nation the Snake, Bannock, Paiute, and Comanche. Though each speak different dialects, their languages are UTO-Aztecan. The Ute also speak UTO-Aztecan, but one can only speculate they are direct descendants of Aztlan, who were the descendants of the Chichimec (Nahuas) of Mexico, who ended the reign of the Toltec. There are literally thousands of Native American Tribes, and surprisingly there has been only a modest attempt to study their exact origins.

In other words, take the term 'European emigrants' for example. We can say all people in America who came from Europe are 'Europeans." That might be true, but as we unpack the term we discover that within are many of different ethnicity i.e. French, German, English, Danish etc. All are from Europe but each have their own languages, customs and traditions.

The Colorado Utes, like many other Tribes living in North America, were nomadic and explored vast areas of the region.

An Indian was an Indian to most Europeans, few cared what band or Tribe they belonged to. It follows we see the terms "Ute Timpanogos," Timpanogos Ute," and frequently just "Ute." The word "Timpanogostzis" is Snake-Shoshonian, and when referred to as the "Uintahs," "Uintah-ats," that meant the Timpanogostzis that occupy the Uintah River area, and so forth" and in all cases are in fact the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos. According to Hubert Bancroft, "The Yutahs were comprised of several bands of Shoshone, the most important of which are the Timpanogos who 'range through Utah Valley and the mountains adjoining the valley on the east..." Schoolcroft's Arch vol. v. p. 498. - Source: The Works of Hubert Bancroft 1882 pg 578. Origin of the Shoshonian Timpanogos is explained further down on this page.

The Timpanogostzis are a break-off Band of the Snake who figured prominatly throughout Oregon history as far back as the 1630's.

The Sioux referred to the Colorado Utes as the Sapa-we-cisca (sounds like sapa we cha saw), meaning the 'black men' because of their darker skin color.

Note: Utah has a history of fabricating Indian names. For example lets take the Fremont Indians. There never was any tribe called the Fremonts a name derived from an early explorer named John Fremont who it is said tripped over some Indian artifact that no one could attribute to any particular Tribe, so they invented one called the "Fremont Indians." I suppose if Johns last name was Jones there would be a Jones Indian Tribe. At least the name Ute has its roots in an Indian word.

The Northern Ute Tribe, as we know them today, are likely distant relatives of the Shoshoni. But, during the time of the Black Hawk War 1865-73 they occupied their ancestral land in Colorado. It was not until the Ute Removal Act of 1881, eleven years after the Black Hawk War ended, and as a result of the 1878 Meeker Massacre, the U.S. Government declared "The Utes must go!" and forced the Colorado Utes on to the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah. The Uintah Valley Reservation was set aside by President Abraham Lincoln for the "Indians of Utah," namely the Timpanogos who have occupied the land since time immemorial, on October 3, 1861. The Snake-Shoshone-Timpanogos origins are found in Oregon, as I will discuss further on.

The Executive Order signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 does not make any mention of the "Uintah Ouray Reservation" and/or make any reference to "Indians of Colorado" what-so-ever. What it says is "that the Uintah Valley, in the Territory of Utah, be set apart and reserved for the use and occupancy of Indian Tribes." Signed by The President Abraham Lincoln Executive Office Oct. 3, 1861, with the Presidents words "Let the reservation be established, as recommended by the Secretary of the Interior." It was then signed into law on May 5, 1864 by Act of Congress. Thus created the Uintah Valley Reservation for the exclusive use of the Indians of Utah, namely the Timpanogos Nation who were the only established Indian occupants of Utah Territory who ruled the entire Wasatch Front up until 1881.

All seven bands that make up the Colorado Ute tribe were combined under the Confederated Ute Treaty of 1868 in Colorado and thereafter they became known as the Confederated Utes. In 1880 members of the Whiteriver Agency Utes of Colorado killed their unprincipled Agent Nathan Meeker. In response to the massacre Congress enacted the Relocation Act in 1880. This is when "the Utes must go!" slogan came into being.

Three of the seven bands of the Utes were forced from Colorado to the Thornburgh Agency in Vernal, Utah, as prisoners of war. The three bands were the Yampa (aka Whiterivers), the Uintahs (not to be confused with the Snake-Shoshoni Uintahs); and the Parianuche (aka Grand Rivers).

The fourth Colorado Band known as the Tabaquache (aka Uncompahgre) was assigned to a separate agency in Utah called the Ouray Agency. Both Agencies were located on the Uintah Valley Reservation. The Thornburgh Agency became the Uintah Agency. The Government seeing no need for two Agencies on the same Reservation then combined the Uintah and Ouray which came to be known as the Uintah Ouray Agency in 1885. In 1886 then President Chester Arthur by Executive Mansion designated a small strip of land on the Uintah Valley Reservation for the Colorado Utes to graze their cattle, which is today known as Ouray. This did not abrogate or diminish the Uintah Valley Reservation.

In 1937 the Ute Tribe was established under the corporate name The "Uintah Ouray Reservation" which does not exist as a 'reservation' and is only the name of the corporation. I would thank anyone to show me a government document that says otherwise, that there is real estate that was set aside by congress as the Uintah Ouray Reservation. The "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is the constitutional name of the Northern Ute Tribe which was founded in 1937, and the Northern Ute Tribe gained Federal recognition. Moreover, there has never been any act that has abrogated or amended the Executive Order of 1861 that established the Uintah Valley Reservation for the "Indians of Utah" and, according to the Tenth District Court ruling in 2016 "remains intact." And who were "the Indians of Utah" in 1861? Answer: The Timpanogos Nation as they were the only ruling Tribe of Indians living in Utah territory in 1861.

Three remaining Colorado bands Confederated Utes namely the Capote, Weeminuche, and Moache remained in south-western Colorado, near Cortez, known today as the Southern Utes, and are federally recognized.

Each band of the Confederated Utes have their own unique dialects. The Northern Utes prefer to call themselves 'Nuche' as the word "Ute" is not in their language. And "Timpanogostzis" in not in their language either. Antonga and Black Hawk are not in their language. And the fact is the Northern Ute don't recognize any of the seven prominent leaders of the Timpanogos Nation i.e. Tabby, Sanpitch, Wakara, Grospean, Arropeen, and etc.. Still Utah historians and writers refer to all of them as being Ute. Is that because they never consult with the Native peoples of Utah? The Colorado Utes Nation and Timpanogos Nation are distinctly different in origin, language and customs. (Source: Timpanogos Nation, Ute Tribe, Commission of Indian Affairs Annual Report 1865, O.H. Irish, Powell, Department of the Interior, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs)

The Timpanogos Nation

Treaties are an important source of information regarding Tribal affiliation, they reveal not only the political nature of the conflicts and the ambitions of early settlers to bring the Native peoples into submission and give up their land, treaties also reveal the Nations and leaders who were most involved and prominent in the conflicts. For example, in a failed attempt to bring an end to the Black Hawk War, Congress authorized Treaty Negotiations for the Indians of Utah Territory, and on June 8, 1865 the Spanish Fork Treaty was negotiated exclusively with the various bands of the Timpanogos Nation. However, the treaty would fail ratification as it bore the signature of Brigham Young, thus leaving intact the Uintah Valley Reservation. Congress declared "rather than associate with Brigham Young on such an occasion, they would have the negotiations fail; they would rather the Indians, than the Mormons, would have the land."

The significance of this treaty is that it was intended for the Timpanogos Nation living on the Uintah Valley Reservation, whereas none of the seven Tribes of Colorado known today as "Ute" were named. One exception was the Yampa who were named but any claim they may have had was relinquished by them in the Confederated Utes treaty of 1868. The 1868 Treaty of the Confederated Utes does not have one signature of the Timpanogos Nation. The Timpanogos Nation was never a party to any treaty following the Spanish Fork Treaty.

Timpanogos Shoshone Origin

The earliest record I have found so far that refers to the Timpanogos in Utah begins with the Spanish explorer Juan Rivera in a book titled Juan Rivera's Colorado, 1765 by author Steven G. Baker on page 34 the following:

Juan Rivera's

In the Dominguez Escalante Journal: Their Expedition Through Colorado Utah Arizona and New Mexico in 1776, Escalante describes having come in contact with aboriginal peoples who were Snake-Shoshoni who called themselves "Timpanogostzis," an Aztecan-Shoshonian word meaning People of the Rock water carriers (referring to rock salt), whose leader was Turunianchi. Turunianchi had a son named Moonch.

Moonch was the father of Sanpitch, Wakara, Arropeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen, who occupied a land that is now known as Utah. Dominguez named Mount Timpanogos, Timpanogos River (Provo River), Timpanogos Lake (Great Salt Lake) and Timpanogos Valley (Utah Valley) in honor of these people, an honor that remains to this day. Government maps that predate Mormon settlement support this fact. Then in 1824, explorer Etienne Provost entered what is now Utah and reported having come in contact with a Snake-Shoshone Nation (Timpanogos) living along the Timpanogos River (Provo River) and Timpanogos Lake. Provo City derives it's name from this early explorer.

Peter Gottfredson Black Hawk War UtahMy great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, an emigrant from Denmark arrived in Utah territory in 1857 and lived among the Timpanogos during the war. Peter clearly points out in his book Indian Depredations in Utah that the Snake Shoshoni Timpanogos Nation ruled the entire territory of Utah. Peter wrote: "It was with reluctance that the Timpanogos Indians who met the Higbee colony in March, 1848, permitted the first white settlement on Provo River, and that, too, in spite of the invitation previously extended to the colonists by the Chiefs, Sowiette and Walker, to settle among their Nations and teach them how to become civilized." - Peter Gottfredson/Indian Depredations in Utah

The Timpanogos Nation, with it's nearly 1000 members still, to this day, occupy their ancient homeland, homeland that was theirs long before the Uintah Valley Reservation was conceived, yet even this is a little known and ignored fact. The reservation is but a tiny remnant of a once vast territory they call the "home of their ancestors."

The exact  origins of the Shoshone Nation, as with most Native American Tribes, there is no difinative answer. Moreover, Oregon scholars have said to have documented the Shoshone have occupied Oregon territory for some 20,000 years. The Shoshone of Oregon eventually spread into areas we know today as Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Kansas and Utah. They continued to explore areas as far south as Mexico and Guatemala having come in contact with the Mayan, and/or visa versa. According to Maya and North American Indian scholars I interviewed, these ancient explorers returned to North America bringing with them sacred wisdom, dialects, and traditions of the southern regions. I am witness to the fact today the most sacred ceremonies of the the North American Indians many are in ways similar to the Maya, and a prominent Nation in Arizona, I am told, actually speak Mayan in one of their ceremonies. Symbols found in pictographs in North America are recognized and regarded sacred by Maya peoples.

Because the language of the the Shoshone is UTO-Aztecan we can only assume they decend from the Chichimec (the Dog People) then there were three divisions, the Chichimec became the Nokoni, the Aztec, and Hopi (Moki). The Nokoni became the Shoshoni Nation which split into four bands, the Snake, Bannock, Comanche and Paiute. The Timpanogos descend from the Snake-Shoshone. Early explorers referred to the Timpanogos as the Eutahs. The term "Eutah" derives from an Arapaho word E-wu-ha-wu-si meaning "people who use grass or bark for their lodges." All Indians living in grass lodges or bark structures would fall into this category. The shortened version Ewuha or Eutah are terms spoken by early trappers and explorers who traveled the Utah area when referring to the Native peoples they encountered who spoke the Snake-Shoshone language.

The Timpanogos were deeply connected to the land of their ancestors. They were deeply connected to the beauty that surrounded them, majestic mountains, lakes and streams. They were deeply connected to the plants in all their endless forms and uses. They were deeply connected to maintaining a harmonious relationship with the animals and all living things. They understood and respected these things as sacred gifts from a greater power. They were neither "savage" nor "heathens" rather a prosperous, and deeply spiritual civilization. For the Timpanogos the war was never about possessions, the land was their mother, nourishing all her children, it belonged to everyone. It was about honor, honoring the sacred. To this I further say if you must judge them, do so by their own standards.

Shoshone communities were based upon true democracy. Protocols and Ethics are religiously followed. No one person was above all others. Every individual was respected equally. Family and community were inseparable and cohesively bound together in an environment of Honesty, Love, Courage, Truth, Wisdom, Humility, and Respect. Even animals and all things Creator created were seen by Native peoples as having a purpose, and each possessing special gifts and talents. When decisions were made within Native communities everyone had to be in agreement before action was taken. Within the communities each family took on particular roles, for example medicine people, warriors, weavers, hunters and gatherers etc. were the responsibility of individual families respectfully. Elders, who were the old and wise, they had the greatest influence in the community. They were the spokespersons, teachers and keepers of wisdom.

The Timpanogos Nation is not yet a federally recognized Tribe.

See: Black Hawk War Facts