Pettit talks about Utes, who once called this home
The early residents of this area were the Ute Indians. Local author Jan Pettit, who has studied their culture for years and visited
their reservations in Utah, talked about the history of the Utes and their current culture in a slide show presentation at the Old
Colorado City History Center Oct. 14.
For hundreds of years, the Utes - who called themselves by another name that means “We, the people” - roamed the Rocky Mountain region, following animal herds and essentially living off the land. They weren't farmers, but evidently did not need to be. “They were well to do,” said Pettit, a Cascade resident who helped found the Ute Pass Historical Society and wrote a book, “The Utes: The Mountain People.”
The American westward migration changed Ute ways. Their numbers dropped from 8,000 before 1859 to just 2,000, but the darkest day, Pettit emphasized, was Sept. 29, 1879. That was the event commonly called the Meeker Massacre, in which 30 whites were killed and others taken captive (later released, unharmed). Contributing to the problem was an Indian agent, Nathan Meeker, who, according to accounts, wanted to “convert” the Utes to God-fearing farmers. Meeker was among those killed. The result was the American Army coming down in force and the Ute Indians winding up on reservations with far less land than they had once known. “That was the end of the Ute lifestyle,” Pettit said.
However, their culture is not dead, she explained. Their language is still taught and “they still do the Bear Dance,” she said.
She said the Utes were known in the older days, and even into modern times, as being a very communal people. In more recent times, on the reservation, people were welcome to take food from each other's freezers or borrow their cars.
Pettit lamented that some of this sharing mindset is changing. On a recent visit, she noticed, “They're getting to be more like us. They're locking their freezers.”
How do the Utes feel toward the white man now? Pettit said she has heard them “say a prayer for us and that we all might get along.”
Westside Pioneer article