Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Clifford B. Craig


Clifford B. Craig


The purpose of this study is to analyze the physical and cultural relationships which does nOW and has existed between the Ute Mountain Utes, presently located in southwestern Colorado , and their land base through time . This is especially interesting in relation to the Ute Mountain Utes as they originally were considered to be one of the most poorly endowed of the American Indians, but through a series of fortuitous events closely related to their land they are now considered to be the second wealthiest Indian tribe in the United States (Dutton, 1965, p . 6?) .

This paper will be limited to the critical periods of time in which the Ute Mountain Ute~' physical land base and technology were shifting rather than attempting a precise chronological study . It wjll be illustrated that two periods of time were ones in which the land base and usage were very limiting and the way of life of the Ute Indians was very meager and harsh. These were the pre-horse hunting and gathering period and the reservation period roughly between 1895 and 1953 during which the Ute Mountain Utes were on their present reservation existing, under conditions of extreme poverty . The remaining periods of time to be studied were those of expansion and improved standards of living for the Ute Indians. The first of these began in approximately 1640 when they came into direct contact with the Spanish in Taos , from whom they acquired the horse. This increased their resources both in terms of territory and material culture. The second period of expansion which led to their present status began , legally, in 1938 ; but not in actuality until after 1953 with the passage of an act allowing the Utes to be legally compensated for their loss of lands in western Colorado. Of equal importance to their expansion during this period was the discovery of oil on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation in 1956.

This study will therefore be limited to those point of time in which important changes were made in the land base of the Ute Mountain Utes and an analysis will be made of the physical geographical base and its relationship to the Utes' technology, economic, and political status.

For purposes of this paper the seven Ute bands recognized at the time of historical contact will be treated a a group and referred to as Utes up to and through most of the historical period. The Ute Mountain Utes will be treated individually at the point of their being assigned to their own reservation in 1895. Any departure from this will be clearly stated. The reason for this is found in the absence of a written language and a limited technology during the early period making it impossible for the anthropologists to accurately trace any one band prior to historic times. Early writers were prone to confuse the Comanches and Utes so it cannot realistically be expected that separate bands were correctly identified during the early contact period(Hyde, 1959, p. 58).