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 Tribe as being Ute. This is a common mistake most all historian's have made. The Utes, during the time of the Black Hawk War occupied their ancestral land in Colorado, and it was not until the Removal Act of 1881, following the Meeker Massacre, eleven years after the Black Hawk War ended, when the Colorado Utes were forced on to the Uinta Valley Reservation in Utah that had been 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, aka. Timpanogs, did not come from Colorado. The Snake Shoshone origins are found in Oregon.

It was European migrants and trappers who coined the term "Ute" which doesn't appear in history until about 1865, and began as a pseudonym of an Shoshonian Indian word u-tah-ats referring to all Indians that occupied Utah Territory. During the 1800's the word 'Ute' had nothing to do with tribal affiliation, rather geographical location. The word 'Ute' in time was extended by Europeans to include the greater part of the Indians of Utah and Colorado, resulting in much confusion regarding Tribal affiliation. The word "Timpanogostzis" is Snake-Shoshonian, and the Timpanogos Indians that occupied Utah Territory were referred to as the "Uintahs," "Uintah-ats," and the "Utahs," and in all cases are in fact the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos. "The Utahs are composed of several bands, 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 HubertBancroft 1882 pg 578

The Northern Ute Tribe, as we know them today, was not formed until 1937 when the seven Colorado bands the Yamparicas (aka Yampas, and Whiterivers), Uintas (not to be confused with the Snake-Shoshoni Uintahs); Parianuche (aka Grand Rivers), and Tabaquache (aka Uncompahgre) merged into the Ute Tribe of the Uinta and Ouray Indian Agency. The Uinta and Ouray Reservation is a corporation and not a reservation. There has never been any act that has subrogates or changes the excutive order of 1861 that established the Uinta Valley Reservation for the "Indians of Utah." The Capote, Weeminuche, and Moache remained in south-western Colorado known today as the Southern Utes. None of which are Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Indians, each having 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. The Colorado Tribes and Timpanogos are distinctly different in origin, language and customs and both occupy the same Uinta Valley Reservation in north-eastern Utah. (Source: Timpanogos Tribe, Ute Tribe, Commission of Indian Affairs Annual Report 1865, O.H. Irish, Powell, Department of the Interior, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs)

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 Tribes 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 that was raging in all directions, 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 Tribe. However, the treaty would fail ratification as it bore the signature of Brigham Young, thus leaving intact the Uinta 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 Tribe living on the Uinta 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.

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, whose leader was Turunianchi. Turunianchi had a son named Munch.

Munch 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 Tribe (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 Tribe 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 tribes and teach them how to become civilized." - Peter Gottfredson/Indian Depredations in Utah

The Timpanogos Tribe, with it's nearly 1000 members still, to this day, occupy their ancient homeland, homeland that was theirs long before the Uinta 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 has been lost to time. Moreover, Oregon scholars have documented the Shoshone have occupied Oregon territory for some 20,000 years. The Shoshone eventually spread into areas we know today as Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. They continued to explore areas as far south as Mexico and Guatemala having come in contact with the Mayan. 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.

The Shoshone were first called 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.

UPDATE: 5/07/2017 Just found more information regarding the Timpanogos in Meeker, Colorado at the Whiteriver Museum. In a book titled Juan Rivera's Colorado, 1765 by authornSteven G. Bakern on page 34 the following:

Juan Rivera's

See: Black Hawk War Facts