The Timpanogos & Ute Oxymoron

For over a century, Utah historians have mistakenly identified the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogostzis Nation as being Colorado Utes. The Timpanogos are indigenous to Utah territory and not enrolled members of the Ute Tribe and never were. The Utes have never referred to themselves as 'Timpanogos.' They prefer to call themselves 'Nuchu.' The Utes and Timpanogos are two distinctly different Nations in origin, ancestral bloodlines, language, and customs. However, writers continue to refer to them as "Timpanogos Ute," an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.


The Uintah Valley Reservation Was Created 1861

The Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation

Tenth District Ruling July, 2017

The Origin of the Ute Name

Shoshone Timpanogos Origin



Historian Historian Phillip B Gottfredson | Author "Black Hawk's Mission of Peace"

First Nations identity is critical in our understanding of Native American history 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 these two individual nations' origins and how both ended up on the Uintah Valley Reservation.

The Ute Nation does not recognize Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen as their Chiefs. Why would they? They were principal Chiefs of the Timpanogos Nation known as 'The Royal Bloodline.' They do, however, recognize Chief Ouray, Chief Colorow, and Chief Ignacio, who were the principal chiefs of the Colorado Utes.

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 until 1881.

That said, it's well known that in 1865-66 at the peak of the Black Hawk War, Timpanogos War Chief Antonga Black Hawk, who was a son of Sanpitch, was subordinate to the Timpanogos Nation's Principal Chief Tabby. As Tabby's War Chief, Black Hawk 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 Antonga 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 Confederated Utes. And though Black Hawk considered him as his 'brother', as it is customary for Native people to do, he was not a blood relative of Black Hawk.

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 Timpanogos on July 24, 1847, when Brigham Young along with a party of 143 Mormons entered Utah Valley the ancestral home of the Timpanogos. When the Mormons arrived in Utah, they entered a land occupied by Native nations of a greater region surrounding Utah, such as the Montana Blackfoot, Wyoming Cree, Arizona Apache, Colorado Arapaho, Nevada Washoe, Arizona Navajo, and the Colorado Utes. The Shoshone was the largest Tribe, occupying a vast area from Oregon to Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming.

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 descendants of the 'Royal Bloodline' living on the Uintah Valley Reservation in Utah and have filed for Federal Recognition. A process that can take sometimes decades for our government to consider some applications.

The Uintah Valley Reservation Was Created In 1861

The Timpanogos had lived in the Great Basin of Utah long before President Lincoln created the Uintah Valley Reservation in 1861. My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson lived among the Timpanogos during the Black Hawk War years. He was a friend of Black Hawk and was invited into his camp on numerous occasions. He often spoke about the Timpanogos in his book Indian Depredations In Utah, but I, like others, assumed they were Ute. The Timpanogos has been completely ignored and left out of history. They are believed by many to be nonexistent, which is not true.

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

Caleb B. Smith, Secretary of the Department of Interior, recommended to President Lincoln that the Uintah Valley, in the Territory of Utah, be set apart and reserved for the use and occupancy of Indian Tribes of Utah. Quoting from the original document the following: "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 indigenous 'Indians of Utah' , it 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.

The Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation

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 Confederated Utes. Colorado Ute Chiefs were Chief Ouray, who died August 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." See: INTER-RACIAL CONTACT AND UTE REMOVAL

The Ute Removal Act of 1881 forced three of the seven Bands of the Confederated Utes from Colorado to the Thornburgh Agency on the Uintah Valley Reservation. 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 sees no need for two Agencies on the same reservation then combined the Uintah and Ouray, 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."

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)

The Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation is federally recognized but wasn't created until 1937, under the constitutional name "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation". The title "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is only the Nations' constitutional name, NOT A RESERVATION. There never was a reservation called the Uintah & Ouray Reservation. Only Congress can create a reservation. There has never been congressional action that created a reservation called the "Uintah & Ouray Reservation." The Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation lives on the Uintah Valley Reservation and are referred to as the Northern Ute.

Tenth District Court Ruling July 2017

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 ruled that the Uintah Valley Reservation established by Abraham Lincoln has never been abrogated or diminished and remains intact.

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. Antonga 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, ancestral bloodlines, 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)(See: Source Material)

The origin of the "Ute" Name

"In the old days when the Utes were forced to come here, our elders told us to be kind to the Utes, they been run off their land and have no home. We need to be kind to them. And we were. And the elders of the Utes told their people, we are on Timpanogos land, this land is theirs and we need to respect that and not make trouble. Then the Mormons got involved and lied to the Utes about us, and they lied to us about the Utes. They made us so we didn't trust each other and we began to fight each other. They didn't care about us, all they wanted us to do was fight each other, tear us apart, take our land, oil and water, and our timber." - Timpanogos Nation

The Fremont Indians; Fact or Fiction? Here's a great example of this kind of confusion. It 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 Native American 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 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 significant task to determine the true Tribal affiliation of the Native peoples of Utah. Before the 1900s, the historical use of the term appears to be loosely used by Europeans as a blanket term when referring to any Native peoples of the Great Basin, ignoring their actual individual tribal affiliation.

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, and I 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' (pronounced noo-chay). I have found nothing definitive that would say the name 'Ute' belonged to one particular tribe before 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 a 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. I have been in many sweats with the Ute people, and I will always honor the sacred trust between us.

There is so much confusion surrounding the name Ute, which is no fault of theirs. Their true history was kept from their ancestors when the government forced them to attend boarding house schools, severely punished them for speaking their language, and forbid them to live their sacred lifeways. I suggest that writers and historians should use the name as it pertains to the Colorado Utes or specify Bands of the Confederated Utes and not label every Native American who set foot in the Great Basin "Ute." Or the Bands of the Shoshone who are indigenous to Utah, i.e., the Timpanogos Nation, Paiute, and Goshute, whose origins are Shoshoni in language and customs and 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 'Ute' should be reason enough for people to distinguish them as such. Doing this would alleviate a lot of confusion in Utah's history and our understanding of the Tribal affiliation 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 Utes to move into northern New Mexico and Colorado in the 1700's or perhaps earlier. (See: Chichimeca - Wikipedia}

2009 Ute Indian Powwow in Utah copyeight Phillip B Gottfredson. This photo was taken by permission from the Ute Tribe of the Uinta Valley Reservation.

Ute Powwow (Photo by Phillip Gottfredson with Tribal permission

Shoshone Timpanogos Origin

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 book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace is a detailed synopsis of the Utah Black Hawk War, Native American history, culture and Traditions. Author Phillip B GottfredsonAuthor: Phillip B Gottfredson wrote extensively about the Timpanogos in his book "My Journey To Understand Black Hawk's Mission of Peace." The name "Timpanogostzis" is Snake-Shoshonian, they are not related to any of the seven Bands of the Utes. 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.

The Timpanogos Tribe was first discovered in Utah Territory 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 Señora 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, Timpanogos, 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 (Mormons call him Walker), 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 Antongua (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 descendants 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 essential source of information regarding Tribal affiliation; they reveal the political nature of the conflicts and the ambitions of early colonists to bring the Native peoples into submission. And give up their land, treaties also show the Nations and leaders who were most involved and prominent in the conflicts. For example, in a failed attempt to end the Black Hawk War, Congress authorized Treaty Negotiations for the Indians of Utah Territory. On June 8, 1865, negotiations began on the Spanish Fork Treaty 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.

With its nearly 1000 members, the Timpanogos Nation still, to this day, occupies their ancient homeland. This homeland was theirs long before Congress established the Uintah Valley Reservation. 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."

See: (the Timpangos Tribe official website)