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Utah's Timpanogostzis Are Snake-Shoshone - No Relation to Utes

By Phillip B Gottfredson ~ Historian For The Timpanogos Nation

Utah historians mistakenly identify the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogostzis Indians as being Colorado Utes. The Utes and Timpanogos are two distinctly different Tribes in origin, language, and customs. Writers sometimes refer to them as "Timpanogos Ute" which is an oxymoron. Tribal identity is critical 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.

The Timpanogos, or Timpangotzis, are the original inhabitants of Utah Territory who were first discovered by Spanish explorers Juan Revera in 1765, and later on by Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. They describe having come in contact with "the bearded ones" Eutahs, who spoke the language of the Snake-Shoshone and called themselves "Timpanogostzis," who lived by a lake the Timpanogostzis named Timpanogos. I will give more details further down on this page.

It doesn't matter that the Timpanogos are not yet a federally recognized Tribe, they are the original inhabitants of this land called Utah, and their aboriginal rights, vested treaty rights, and sovereignty rights remain intact as being the supreme law-of-the-land. Today the Timpanogos Nation consists of about 1000 descendents of the 'Royal Bloodline' living on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah.

In this essay, I will explain that the Timpanogos Indians are the original inhabitants of Utah Territory. I Begin with the origin of the name "Ute" followed by The creation of the Uinta Valley Reservation by Abraham Lincoln; There being no congressional act that created a reservation called the " Uintah & Ouray Reservation; Origin of the Northern and Southern Ute Tribes; Colorado Utes being forced to Utah in 1881 as "prisoners of war"; Treaty records; The Timpanogos Nation being discovered by Spanish explorers Juan Revera in 1765, and Dominguez and Escalante in 1776.

The origin of the "Ute" Name

Did you know the Ute Tribe is comprised of seven distinctly separate bands all of whom have their roots in Colorado? The Mouche, Capote, Weeminuche, Tabaquache, Grandriver, Uintah and Yampa are the bands that comprise the Utes. In the 1800's the name "Ute" was 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. Makes a huge difference when determining tribal identity.

The name "Ute" was born of confusion and it follows it becomes a major task to determine true Tribal ethnicity of the native peoples of Utah. Prior to the 1900's, historical use of the term appears to be loosely used by Europeans when referring to the Native peoples of Utah territory ignoring their true Tribal ethnicity.

Many in the Ute Tribe I have spoken with, including a Ute linguist the late Venita Taveapont whom I have deep respect for spent considerable time discussing Ute language. Vanita explained to me 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 the name 'Ute' belonged to one particular Tribe prior to 1868. 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 other English words used at the time i.e. yutahs, u-tah-ats, yutas, as is the name "Utah" which is also pseudonym. It appears that the term Ute began as a metonymy (way of speaking) for the Whites, and later becomes mainstream in use.

It is not my intention to be disrespectful to the Ute Nation in any way. The point I am trying to make is that there is so much confusion surrounding the name Ute. And that the name should be used by writers and historians as it pertains to the Colorado Utes and not Shoshone Tribes who are indigenous to Utah i.e. the Timpanogos Nation, or any other Tribe(s) in the region who's origins, language and customs are distinctly different from the Colorado Utes. The fact that the historic Confederated Ute Treaty of 1868 establishes the indigenous people of Colorado as being 'Ute' should be reason enough for people to make this distinction. This alone would alleviate a lot of confusion in Utah's history and in our understanding of Tribal ethnicity of Utah's Native American peoples.

It is my opinion that the Colorado Utes may have their ancestral roots in the Chichecas. In the 1600's the Chichimeca "moved freely back and forth from what is now southern Utah and had definite settlements in what is now Texas." (See: Chichimeca - Wikipedia}

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 principle of truth on which the historical profession is based." For example, let's take the Fremont Indians. There never was any tribe called the Fremont, 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." We can only imagine the confusion this will cause later on down the road for researchers, readers and historians alike.

The Uintah Valley Reservation Created 1861

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. Congress is the only one that can create a reservation, and there is no congressional act that created any reservation called the " Uintah & Ouray Reservation." The Northern Ute Tribe lives on the Uintah Valley Reservation as does the Timpanogos Tribe.

The Executive Order signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 that created the Uintah Valley Reservation 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.

Caleb B. Smith, Secretary the Department of Interior, recommended to the President "that the Uintah Valley, in the Territory of Utah, be set apart and reserved for the use and occupancy of Indian Tribes of Utah. "I respectfully recommend that you order the entire valley of the Uintah River within Utah Territory, extending on both sides of said river to the first range of contiguous mountains on each side, to be reserved to the United States and set apart as an Indian reservation." President Abraham Lincoln responded, "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 enacted 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 aboriginal Indian and occupants of Utah Territory since time in memorial.

Origin of the Northern and Southern Ute Tribes

These are the facts: 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.

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 bands of the Confederated Utes to leave Colorado and they were relocated on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah as "prisoners of war."

The Ute Removal Act of 1881 sent three of the seven bands of the Confederated Utes from Colorado to the Thornburgh Agency on the Uintah Valley Reservation, 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 second agency on the Uintah Valley Reservation called the Ouray Agency. The Thornburgh Agency was dissolved. And that moved the three bands of the Thornburgh Agency to a third Agency called the Uintah. So there were just the two remaining agencies called the Uintah, and the Ouray. 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. These four bands of Colorado Confederated Utes are known today as the Northern Ute Tribe.

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 at the Uintah and Ouray Agency to graze their cattle. 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 said 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 has their own unique dialects. The Northern Utes prefer to call themselves 'Nuche' as the word "Ute" is not in their language. And "Timpanogostzis" is 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, Arapeen, and etc.. Still Utah historians and writers incorrectly 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, Ute Mountain Utes, Commission of Indian Affairs Annual Report 1865, O.H. Irish, Powell, Department of the Interior, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs)

Timpanogos Shoshone Origin

The earliest record I have found so far that refers to the Timpanogos Nation 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:

The Snake Shoshone Nation figured prominently throughout Oregon history as far back as the 1630's, according to Historian and Author Gale Ontko - Thunder Over The Ocoho. However Ontko makes no mention of the Timpanogos.

The name "Timpanogostzis" is Snake-Shoshonian, they are not related to any of the seven bands 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. Today the Timpanogos point out that the names Yutahs Ewuha or Eutah (Indian words spelled phonetically) also refer to the reeds that grow around Utah Lake that were used to make arrows. "eu" in their language means reed, and "tah" meaning arrow. Bancroft makes the same observation also referenced in his book The works of Hubert Howe Bancroft; The Native Races 1883 - 1886.

Spanish Explorer Juan Rivera's Expedition through Utah

Dominguez and Escalante in 1776 Utah

The Timpanogos, or Timpangotzis, are the original inhabitants of Utah Territory who were first discovered by Spanish explorers Juan Revera in 1765, and later on by Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. They describe having come in contact with "the bearded ones" Eutahs, who spoke the language of the Snake-Shoshone and called themselves "Timpanogostzis," who lived by a lake the Timpanogostzis named Timpanogos. Dominguez and Escalante called the area El Valle de Nuestra SeƱora de la Merced de los Timpanogos (translation: The valley of our lady of mercy of the Timpanogos), a description fitting for the serene beauty of a lush green valley surrounded by majestic mountains, dominated by a twelve-thousand foot mountain in particular, named Mount Timpanogos dominating the landscape that Dominguez and Escalante called La Sierra Blanca de los Timpanogos ( translation: The white mountain of the Timpanogos). The lake is known today as Utah Lake. Then, Utah and the Great Salt lakes were connected by a river. Government maps that predate Mormon settlement support these facts. The Lagunas, fish eaters, Yutah, Eutah, and the bearded ones; the Timpangotzis they are called by all these names.

"Turunianchi the Great" was the leader of the Timpanogostzis, and Cuitzapuninchi, Panchucunquibiran, and Picuchi were his brothers. Turunianchi had a son named Moonch. Moonch was the father of Chiefs Sanpitch, Yah-Keera (Walkara), Arapeen (father of Jake Arapeen), Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen were known as the "Royal Bloodline." Six of the seven brothers were the uncles of Antonga (Black Hawk) who was the son of Sanpitch.

Dominguez and Escalante describe the Timpanogos as a loving, kind and hospitable people.

Today the Timpanogos Nation consists of about 1000 descendents of the 'Royal Bloodline' living on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah.

Then in 1824, explorer Etienne Provost entered what is now Utah and reported having come in contact with Mauvis Guache a 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 Black Hawk War. Peter clearly points out in his book Indian Depredations in Utah that the 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

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. 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 in the Utah Valley area, whereas none of the seven bands of Colorado known today as "Ute" were named. One exception was the Yampa who was 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.

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 is as with most Native American Tribes, there is no definitive answer. Moreover, Oregon scholars have said to have documented that the Shoshone have occupied Oregon territory for some 20,000 years. The Shoshone of Oregon eventually spread into areas we know today as California, Montana, Idaho, 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 Tribe 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 labeled as being 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, it is believed, 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 reeds or bark for their lodges." All Indians living in grass reed 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.

See: Timpanogos Website