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Origins of the Timpanogos and Colorado Ute Tribes

By Phillip B Gottfredson

Timpanogos Indians are the original inhabitants of Utah Territory who were first discovered by Spanish explorer Juan Revera in 1765, and Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. It was the Timpanogos Nation LDS Church leader Brigham Young and his followers first encountered in 1847 and not the Colorado Utes as Utah historians would have us believe. In 1849 Mormon militia under orders from Brigham Young massacered a peaceful group of Timpanogos Indians at Pleasant Grove, Utah, known as the Battle Creek Massacre. That led to what the Mormons would call the Black Hawk War laying all the blame on Antonga Black Hawk, which continued on for 23 years ending in 1872.

Historians mistakenly identify the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Nation as being Ute. "Ute Timpanogos" is an oxymoron. Ute and Timpanogos are two different tribes. They are distinctly different in origin, language and customs. Tribal identity is absolutely crucial in our understanding of the Black Hawk War in Utah, yet it remains the most overlooked topic causing inaccuracies in our histories leading to baseless conclusions, confusion, and false assumptions.

In this essay we begin with the Colorado Utes who were forced to Utah in 1881 as "prisoners of war" long after the Black Hawk War ended, They, therefore, were not the principle Tribe in Utah's Black Hawk War. We then discuss the creation of the Uinta Valley Reservation by Abraham Lincoln, followed by the Timpanogos Nation being discovered by Spanish explorers Juan Revera in 1865, and Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. (Visit Timpanogos Nation Website

The Utes

Did you know the Ute Tribe is comprised of seven distinctly separate tribes all of whom have their roots in Colorado? The Mouche, Capote, Weeminuche, Tabaquache, Grandriver, Uintah and Yampa are the Tribes that comprise the Utes. The name "Ute" is a blanket word, its the same as saying Europeans, and how many different countries comprise the Europeans? And when it comes to determining blood quantum and bloodlines it's absolutely critical. I'm European for example, but am I English, Danish, French, Greek...? Makes a huge difference when determining who my ancestors are.

The name "Ute" was born of confusion and it follows it becomes a major task to determin true Tribal identity of the native peoples of Utah historians and writers call Ute. Historical use of the term appears to be loosly used by Europeans when referring to the Native peoples of Utah regardless of their true Tribal enthnicity.

Many in the Ute Tribe I have spoken with, including a Ute linguist the late Venita Taveapont whom I spent considerable time discussing Ute language, said that the word Ute is not in the Ute language. Venita said they prefer to call themselves Nuche'. I have found nothing definitive that would say it belongs to one particular Tribe. Its not uncommon to see a Tribe referred to as Shoshone and then Ute within a single paragraph. Since the word "ute" is an anglo term, one can only conclude that it was European migrants and trappers who coined the term "ute" which is a pseudonym of any one of the other english words used at the time yutahs, u-tah-ats, yutas, as is the name "Utah" which is a pseudonym. The term ute doesn't appear in the book Indian Depredations in Utah only 3 times by Mormon stories recorded therein. Not until the 1900's when the histories were being written the term Ute becomes most used. It appears that the term Ute began as a metonymy (way of speaking) for the Whites, and later becomes mainstream in use.

There are four distinct branches of the Shoshoni Nation the Snake, Bannock, Paiute, and Comanche. Though each speak different dialects, their languages are Aztecan based. The Colorado Utes are not Shoshone and spoke Utoean, and with the Utes now in Utah the term "UTO-Aztecan" was born. One can only speculate the Colorado Utes are descendants of ancient Aztlan in South America, who were the descendants of the ancient Chickimec (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.

The Fremont Indians; Fact or Fiction?

Its certainly is not uncommon for the 'scholars' of Utah to create fallacious names for Indian bands and Tribes. Utah has a long track record of fabricating Indian history. This according to the OAH ( Organization of American Historians) is a "violation of the principal of truth on which the historical profession is based." 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, of French descent, who it is said tripped over some Indian artifact that no archeologist could attribute to any particular Tribe, so in their typical disrespectful fashion toward indigenous peoples they fabricate one calling it the "Fremont Indians." I suppose if Johns last name was Gottfredson there would be a Gottfredson Indian Tribe. We can only imagine the confusion this will cause later on down the road for researchers, readers and historians alike. Believe me when I say its all about money. Money makes the world go round. There will be books, magazines, museums, and special tours of Fremont Indian ruins all based upon this fictional Tribe that doesn't exist. Oh wait... its already happened...

An Indian was an Indian to most Europeans, few cared what band or Tribe they belonged to, as they were numerous and too many to keep track of by name. Historians, for example, refer to Chief Colorow as Ute, when in fact he was Comanche. He was captured by the Mouche of the Southern Utes, and raised from childhood by the Mouche, Capote, and Tabaquache of the Southern Ute peoples. Though he was born a Comanche, he lived his life as a Southern Ute, and eventually became a leader there. Colorow never came to Utah, and the Comanche are a branch of the Shoshone. So Colorow was born a Shoshoni and raised as a Southern Ute. And interesting to note, Chief Ouray was never in Utah. He was the Chief of the Ute Mountain Utes and is buried in Ignatio, Colorado. Colorado Ute Chiefs were Colorow died 1888, Chief Ignacio died December 9, 1913, and Chief Ouray who died Aug 24, 1880.

All seven bands that make up the Colorado Ute Nation were combined under the Confederated Ute Treaty of 1868 in Colorado and thereafter they became known as the Confederated Utes.

The Northern Ute Tribe of Utah is a federally recognized Tribe. The "NORTHERN UTE TRIBE" wasn't created until 1937, under the constitutional name "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation". The "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is only a constitutional name NOT A RESERVATION and never was a reservation. The Northern Ute Tribe lives on the Uintah Valley Reservation as do the Timpanogos Tribe. There has never been any act of Congress that created a reservation called The Uintah & Ouray Reservation.

In Colorado in 1878 the Colorado Utes killed an unprincipled Indian Agent by the name Jonathan Meeker. Following the 1878 Meeker Massacre in Colorado the United States Government declared "the Utes must go" and enacted the Ute Removal Act, and in 1881 that forced four of the seven Tribes of the Confederated Utes to leave Colorado and they were relocated on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah as "prisoners of war." They are known today as the Northern Utes.

The Uintah Valley Reservation Is Created 1861

Now keeping in mind the Colorado Utes didn't come to Utah until 1881, 9 years after the Black Hawk War ended, we turn our attention to the creation of the Uintah Valley Reservation that was set aside by President Abraham Lincoln for the "Indians of Utah," namely the Timpanogos, on October 3, 1861. The Timpanogos have occupied the land since time immemorial.

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 the "Utes" or Ute Indians of Colorado or "Confederated Utes 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 of Utah." 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 and who were the ruling Nation of the entire Wasatch Front up until 1881.

The Ute Removal Act of 1881 sent three of the seven bands of the Confederated Utes from Colorado to the Thornburgh Agency in Vernal, Utah, as prisoners of war. The three bands were the Yampa the Uintahs; and the Grand Rivers.

The fourth Colorado Band to be forced to leave Colorado 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 was dissolved. And that moved the three bands to 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. Now all four bands are under command of the Uintah Ouray Agency as prisoners of war. In 1886 then President Chester Arthur by Executive Mansion (same as Executive Order) designated a small strip of land on the Uintah Valley Reservation for the "temporary" use by the Colorado Utes to graze their cattle, which is today known as Ouray. President Arthur's Executive Mansion order did not abrogate or diminish the Uintah Valley Reservation. And in a recent 10th District Court ruling July 2017, the court ruled that the Uintah Valley reservation has never been abrogated or diminished and remains intact.

Three remaining Colorado bands of the Confederated Utes namely the Capote, Weeminuche, and Moache remained in south-western Colorado, just south of Durango, known today as the Southern Utes and Ute Mountain 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. Antongua 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, Walkara, Grospeen, Arrapeen, 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 Ute 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

The Timpanogostzis are a branch of the Snake Shoshone who figured prominently throughout Oregon history as far back as the 1630's, according to Historian and Author Gale Ontko - Thunder Over The Ocoho.

The name "Timpanogostzis" is Snake-Shoshonian, they are not related to any of the seven Tribes of the Ute. In 1882 Hubert Bancroft wrote, "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.

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, Arrapeen, 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 definitive 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 Aztecan we can only assume they descend from the Chickimec (the Dog People) then there were three divisions, the Chickimec 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.