Who are the Utes?
Fort Duchesne • An estimated 3,100 Utes make their home on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, a 4.5 million-acre section of the Uinta Basin bordered on the north by the Uinta Mountains.
The Southern Utes reservation, which originally consisted of about 56 million acres, was reduced to a 15-mile-wide, 110-mile long section (just over 1 million acres) by 1934. About 1,000 members now make their home there.
An additional 2,000 members of the Ute tribe, who are said to be descendants of a band from the Southern Utes in Colorado, make their home on the Ute Mountain reservation in the corner of Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
While their nomadic, isolated way of life once helped the Utes thrive, their quiet habits seem to work against them now. Even in places such as Cortez, Colo., the gateway to the Ute nation, it is hard to find much that symbolizes the community of Utes.
Most of the pottery and jewelry are Navajo. The artwork is often Hopi and Pueblo. The beadwork and quillwork that the Utes once were known for is almost nonexistent.
At Anasazi State Park in Boulder, Utah, where tribes are studied and their histories logged, information on the Utes is scant.
"You just don't hear that much about them," said Michael Nelson, the park's manager.
The Utes' low profile in their own state is one reason some want the University of Utah to maintain their name, Ute Cameron Cuch said.
Greater cooperation with the U. would bring the tribe much-needed exposure and help it survive.