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The Timpanogos Ute Oxymoron

By Phillip B Gottfredson Author Historian

Phillip B Gottfredson Black Hawk War Historian

For over a century, Black Hawk War historians in Utah have mistakenly identified the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogostzis Nation 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 time has come to clear up some of these inaccuracies and explain the origins of these two individual Tribes and how they both ended up on the same Uintah Valley Reservation.

It is troubling to me, that celebrated scholars and award-winning authors who write about the Black Hawk War have never asked or cared what the Native Americans they study have to say about their work. Nor did they asked how they would analyze, interpret, or if they have their own version of the particular story they are writing about. Consequently, virtually every account about Utah's indigenous peoples are biased and based on assumptions, replete with half-truths, ambiguities, platitudes, and omissions. For example, Utah historians mistakenly assert that the Black Hawk War was with the Ute Tribe - which is simply incorrect. All seven Bands of the Confederated Utes were in Colorado during the time of the Black Hawk War between the years 1849 and 1872. "But, Mr. Gottfredson, all the histories say it was the Utes." Correct! Histories written during the 1900's all say so, and that's my point.

Certainly the Utes were traveling in and around the Great Basin in the territory of the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos, but the Confederated Ute Tribes were not living in Utah with the Timpanogos until 1881. That said, it's well known that in 1865-66 at the peak of the War, Timpanogos War Chief Black Hawk who was subordinate to the Timpanogos Nation's Principal Chief Tabby, asks for solidarity and support from surrounding Tribes such as the Colorado Utes, Navajo, Apache, and Comanche to name some, all then agreed it was in their best interest to assist in pushing back on the Mormons under the leadership of War Chief Black Hawk. This is the only time members of the Colorado Utes were involved in the Black Hawk War as volunteer warriors subordinate to Black Hawk. And this is when we see such Ute leaders as War Chief Mountain fighting in the Black Hawk War i.e. Little Diamond Battle in 1866, who was a member of the Uintah Band of the Colorado Ute Nation. And though Antongua (Black Hawk) considered him as his 'brother', as it is customary for Native people to do, he was not a blood relative of Antongua. Utah's history of the Black Hawk War needs to be corrected.

In 2015 I was contacted by a Tribe in Utah that no one has ever talked about... the Timpanogos, who have lived in the Great Basin of Utah long before President Lincoln created the Uintah Valley Reservation in 1861. Great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson, often spoke about the Timpanogos but I like others assumed they are Ute. I was stunned to find out they are distinctly different from the Ute's, and that the Timpanogos have been completely ignored and left out of history. They are believed by many to be nonexistent.

The Timpanogos or Timpangotzis, are Snake-Shoshone and 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. I give a detailed account further down on this page.

Just 70 years following the Dominguez and Escalante expedition, trouble began for the Royal Bloods of the Timpanogos on July 24, 1847, when Brigham Young along with a party of 143 Mormons entered the Great Basin the home of the Timpanogos. Several Native Tribes occupied the greater region surrounding Utah such as the Comanche, Blackfoot, Cree, Apache, Arapaho, Kiowa, Washoe, Navajo or Dine', and the Colorado Utes.

NOTE: 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.

Origin of the Northern and Southern Ute Tribes

The Ute Nation 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. Colorado Ute Chiefs were Chief Ouray who died Aug 24, 1880, Chief Colorow died 1888, and Chief Ignacio died December 9, 1913. There is no record of these Chiefs being in Utah.

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 to the already established 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 the jurisdiction of the Uintah Ouray Agency as prisoners of war. These four Bands of Colorado Confederated Utes are known today as the "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" or "Northern Ute Tribe" which is a ficticouse name.

The Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation is a federally recognized Tribe and 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 Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation lives on the Uintah Valley Reservation as does the Timpanogos 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 established by Abraham Lincoln 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.

Phillip B Gottfredson with Kenny Frost of the Ute Mountain Ute Nation
Phillip with Kenny Frost - Ute Mountain Ute (Southern Utes)

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 Colorado Ute's don't recognize any of the seven prominent leaders of the Timpanogos Nation i.e. Chiefs Sanpitch, Yah-Keera (Wakara), Arapeen (father of Jake Arapeen), Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen. Still Utah historians and writers incorrectly refer to these Timpanogos leaders as being Ute. Is that because they never consult with the Native peoples of Utah who have a better understanding of their own history? 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)

The origin of the "Ute" Name

The Fremont Indians; Fact or Fiction? Here's a great example of the kind of confusion I am talking about. Its certainly is not uncommon for the 'scholars' of Utah to create fallacious names for Indian Bands and Tribes, or confuse one for the other. Utah has a long track record of inaccurate and fabricated Indian history. 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 'devil-may-care' 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 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 the Great Basin ignoring their true Tribal ethnicity.

Many in the Ute Tribe I have had the honor to speak 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 when referring to Native peoples in the Great Basin.

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 or specific Bands of the Ute, and not the Bands of the Shoshone who are indigenous to Utah i.e. the Timpanogos Nation, Paiute and Goshute 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 peoples of Colorado and specific Bands 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 humble 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." Being in Texas, they were often in conflict with their enemy the Ko-mats or Comanche who most likely caused the Ute to move into northern New Mexico and Colorado in the 1700's or perhaps earlier. (See: Chichimeca - Wikipedia}

Ute Powwow Copyright Phillip B Gottfredson

Northern Ute Powwow (Photo by Phillip Gottfredson with Tribal permission)

The Uintah Valley Reservation Created 1861

In the middle of the Black Hawk War, an Executive Order was signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 that created the Uintah Valley Reservation, and 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 are the aboriginal 'indians of Utah.'

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 1765.

The Snake Shoshone Nation figured prominently throughout Oregon history as far back as the 1630's, according to Oregon 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 lake. Bancroft makes the same observation also referenced in his book The works of Hubert Howe Bancroft; The Native Races 1883 - 1886.

The Timpanogos, or Timpangotzis, are the original inhabitants of Utah Territory who were first discovered by Spanish explorers Juan Rivera 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 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 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.

See: Timpanogos Website