Ute Indians & Glenwood Springs Beginnings
Ute Indians and Teepees - Ute Indian History

Ute Indians & Glenwood Springs Beginnings

Ute Indian History in Glenwood Springs

The Ute Indians were a group of nomadic hunter-gatherers. For countless generations, they made regular treks through the Glenwood Springs region following the herds and the weather. The geothermal wonders of the area were well known to them and they named the spring Yampah or Big Medicine in the Ute language. The spring retains the original Ute name to this day. 

In the mid-1800s, the U.S. Government began to survey the lands held by the Utes, although legally the government had no claim to it. In 1858, gold was discovered near Pikes Peak which lured Captain Richard Sopris to explore the Roaring Fork Valley for possible new prospecting locations. Mt. Sopris is named for him. Some stories say that Sopris fell ill and Utes in the area took him to soak in the mineral hot springs.

Chief Ouray, a Tabeguache Ute, was highly regarded among the tribes as well as by the whites. In 1868, Ouray negotiated a treaty that limited the Utes’ territory near Aspen. At the time it was considered a win for the Utes because it preserved their hunting grounds around Glenwood Springs. Over the next 11 years, more whites came searching for riches. The Utes, including Chief Colorow head of the White River Utes, considered violent retaliation, but Ouray talked him down. In 1874, Ouray saw the futility of fighting the government and agreed to a treaty that cost the Utes four million acres in return for $60,000 in annuities and goods, which they never received.

Other notable events were taking place as well. In 1878, Nathan Meeker was appointed as the Indian Agent for the White River Agency. Leadville was booming due to silver. James Landis was exploring the Roaring Fork Valley looking for hay he could harvest and sell back in Leadville. Landis was welcomed by the Utes and in 1879 he built a cabin and stayed. As gold, silver, and coal were discovered, the inevitable call came to remove the Utes entirely from the area. Meeker sought to turn the Utes into domesticated laborers, which did not sit well with the Indians. Tensions rose and confrontations between the Utes and whites increased, culminating in the Meeker Massacre which was the catalyst event for relocating the Utes to reservations. In 1880, the Ute lands were formally opened for settlement.

Explore all of the historical things to do, learn and see in Glenwood Springs with a modern twist; there is something for everyone and a new adventure to be had every day! For more Glenwood Springs history, visit the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and Frontier Museum.