The Timpanogos-Ute Misidentity

The writer is the author of Black Hawk's Mission of Peace Phillip B Gottfredson

Utah's indigenous history is replete with disinformation and misinformation, leading to baseless conclusions, confusion, and false assumptions. People, including scholars, have misidentified the Snake-Shoshone Timpanogos Nation as Colorado Utes for over a century in Utah. The Timpanogos and Utes in Utah are distinctly different Tribes in origin, ancestral bloodlines, language, and customs. The Timpanogos are not enrolled as members of the Ute Tribe and never were. However, people call them "Timpanogos-Ute," a contradiction in terms. The Utes are a Utah Tribe indigenous to Colorado. Congress removed the Utes from Colorado to Utah in 1881 as "prisoners of war."

First Nations identity is critical in understanding Native American history in Utah. However, it remains the most overlooked topic. 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.

Spanish explorers Juan Rivera in 1765 and Dominguez and Escalante in 1776 visited the Timpanogos Tribe in Utah. They describe in their journals having come in contact with "the bearded ones" Eutahs, who spoke the language of the Snake-Shoshone and called themselves Timpanogostzis." The Timpanogos are indigenous to the Wasatch of the Great Basin, Utah territory. The Timpanogos ruled the entire Wasatch until Mormon settlers arrived in Utah in 1847.

Note: It does not matter that the Timpanogos are not yet a federally recognized Tribe. They are a sovereign Nation and the original inhabitants of Utah. Their aboriginal rights, vested treaty rights, and sovereignty rights remain intact as 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 sometimes take decades for our government to consider some applications. 


The Uintah Valley Reservation Was Created 1861

The Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation(is not a reservation)

Tenth District Ruling July, 2017

The Origin of the Ute Name

Shoshone Timpanogos Origin


Some members of the Ute Nation say that Sanpitch and Antonga Black Hawk were their chiefs, but there is no definitive proof to support their claim. The Utes recognize Chief Ouray, Chief Colorow, and Chief Ignacio, who were the principal chiefs of the Colorado Utes, but there is no evidence that their Chiefs were in Utah. On the other hand, the Timpanogos Nation has definitive proof that Sanpitch, Wakara, Arapeen, Tabby, Ammon, Sowiette, and Grospeen were brothers and were their principal Chiefs known as 'The Royal Bloodline.'

That said, historical documents show that in 1865-66 at the peak of the the Black Hawk War, Timpanogos War Chief Antonga Black Hawk, a son of Sanpitch, was subordinate to the Timpanogos Nation's Principal Chief Tabby. Tabby was a brother to Sanpitch. As Tabby's War Chief, Black Hawk asks for solidarity and support from surrounding Tribes. The Navajo, Apache, and Comanche, to name a few, agreed it was in their best interest to assist in pushing back on Mormon settlement under the leadership of Antonga Black Hawk.

Antonga Black Hawk was born in c1838, the son of Timpanogos Chief Sanpitch (Tenaciono) and mother Tanar-oh-wich, who gave birth to several children. Sanpitch was a son of Chief Moonch; more on Moonch below. His son's were Chiefs Wakara, Sowiette, Arapeen, Ammon, Tobia (Tabby), Tintic, Kanosh, and Grospean. Antonga Black Hawk died September 26, 1870, and was buried at Spring Lake, Utah.

The only time members of the Colorado Utes might have been involved in the Black Hawk War, they were volunteer warriors subordinate to Antonga Black Hawk. 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; It is documented he was a member of the Uintah Band of the Confederated Utes. Moreover, though Black Hawk considered him as his 'brother,' as it is customary for Native people to do, he was not a blood relative of Antonga Black Hawk.

Just 82 years following the Dominguez and Escalante expedition(see below), trouble began for the Timpanogos on July 24, 1847, when Brigham Young and a party of 143 Mormons entered Utah Valley, the ancestral home of the Snake-Shoshoni Timpanogos. When the Mormons arrived in Utah, the land was 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 Nation occupying a vast area from Oregon to Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming.

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. A friend of Black Hawk, he was invited into his camp numerous times. Peter often spoke about the Timpanogos in his book Indian Depredations In Utah. Exhaustive research reveals they are the most documented Tribe in Utah. Still, some Mormon scholars have said they are nonexistent, which is invalid. In 1850 LDS Church leader Brigham Young ordered the Timpanogos Nation to be exterminated. Since then, the Timpanogos Nation has been completely ignored and left out of history.

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. "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," he said. President Abraham Lincoln responded, "Executive Office Oct. 3, 1861," with the President's words, "Let the reservation be established, as recommended by the Secretary of the Interior." The Uintah Valley Reservation was then enacted into law on May 5, 1864, by the Act of Congress.

The Uintah Valley Reservation was for the exclusive use of the Indians of Utah, namely the Timpanogos Nation, who are the indigenous 'Indians of Utah.' President Lincoln does not reference the "Uintah & Ouray Reservation." Nor make any reference to the "Utes" or Ute Indians of Colorado or "Confederated Utes of Colorado" whatsoever. The Timpanogos of the Wasatch were sent to the Uintah Valley Reservation in 1873.

The Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation 1937

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 Ouray, who died August 24, 1880, Colorow died 1888, and Ignacio died December 9, 1913. There is no record of these Chiefs being in Utah or taking part in the Black Hawk War.

At the close of the Utah Black Hawk War in 1873, U.S. agents forced the Snake Shoshone Timpanogos to leave the Wasatch Front and were sent to the Uintah Valley Reservation.

The Uintah Valley Reservation had three Indian agencies, the Thornburg agency, the Uinta agency, and the Ouray agency.

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. Upon signing the treaty, the Utes reliquished all title to any land across the United States except in Colorado.

In Colorado in 1878, the Colorado Utes killed an unprincipled Indian Agent by the name of Jonathan Meeker. Following the Meeker Massacre, the United States Government declared "The Utes Must Go" and enacted the Ute Removal Act. In 1881, four of the seven Bands of the Colorado Confederated Utes were forced to leave Colorado and relocated to Utah's already established Uintah Valley Reservation as "prisoners of war" and now had new neighbors, the Timpanogos. (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. 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 saw 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 agency was federally recognized in 1937, under the constitutional name "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation." "Ute Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" is the Ute Nation's constitutional name, BUT THERE NO UINTAH OURAY RESERVATION. There has never been any 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 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. Moreover, 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. The Colorado Ute Nation and Timpanogos Nation are distinctly different in origin, ancestral bloodlines, language, and customs. The Timpanogos are the people of the Sundance. The Utes are the people of the Bear Dance

(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? Well, yes, and no. The so-called "Fremont Indians" refers to a Native American culture that existed in what is now the western United States, primarily in present-day Utah and surrounding areas. "Fremont" comes from the Fremont River, named after John Charles Fremont, an explorer who surveyed the region in the 1840s. John C. Frémont, also known as "The Pathfinder," was an actual historical figure and an explorer of the American West in the 19th century. He was born on January 21, 1813, in Savannah, Georgia, and died in New York City on July 13, 1890.

The Fremont River originates in the Fish Lake Plateau. It flows southeastward through the Capitol Reef National Park before eventually joining the Muddy River. The so-called Fremont Indians lived in the region from approximately 400 to 1300 CE.

Beginning in the 1920s, archaeologists started the study of artifacts found along the Fremont River. They couldn't attribute to any known Tribe then, so they named them "Fremont." They are a Tribe indigenous to Utah, so they're given a French name by non-Native people? This a classic example of how disinformation over time becomes fact. We can only imagine the confusion this fictitious name 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 actual Tribal affiliation of the Native peoples of Utah. Before the 1900s, the term "Ute" historically is used by Europeans as a blanket term when referring to any Native peoples of the Great Basin, ignoring their actual individual tribal affiliation.

The term Ute began as a metonymy (way of speaking) for the Whites and later became mainstream when referring to Native peoples in the Great Basin. 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 spent considerable time discussing Ute language.

Vanita explained that the word Ute is not in the Ute language. Venita said they prefer to call themselves 'Nuche' (pronounced noo-chay). There is nothing definitive that would say the name 'Ute' belonged to one particular tribe before 1868. The word "Ute" is an Anglo term. European migrants and trappers coined the term "Ute." An acronym or slang of Shoshoni words at the time, i.e., yutahs, u-tah-ats, as is the name "Utah," which is a acronym of the Shoshoni word yutahs. Yutahs, pronounced "e utahs," refers to the reeds that grew around Utah Lake. The Timpanogos used the reeds to make arrows Etc.. The Timpanogos were sometimes called the Yutahs.

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 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 forbade them to live their sacred lifeways. I suggest that writers and historians use the name Colorado Utes or specify Bands of the Confederated Utes and not blanket label every Native American who set foot in the Great Basin as Ute. For example, the Bands of the Shoshone indigenous to Utah, i.e., the Timpanogos Nation, Paiute, and Goshute, whose origins are Shoshoni in language and customs, 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 indigenous peoples.

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.

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 noted by Spanish explorers Juan Rivera in 1765 and later on by Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. They describe in their journals 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.

And explorer John C. Freemont described in his diary that 1843 came upon a lake (Utah Lake) and noted the river (Provo River) was named Timpanogo after the Tribe that lived there.

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 the Spanish Fork treaty in 1865 is that it was intended for the Shoshoni-Timpanogos Nation and signed by their leaders. None of the seven Tribes of Colorado known today as "Colorado Utes" were named. One exception was the Yampa Ute, but any claim the Yampa may have had, they relinquished three years later when they signed the Ute Treaty of 1868 in Colorado, which had nothing to do with Utah; thus, the homeland of the Timpanogos Nation was left intact. The "Sanpete Utes," referred to in the treaty, are not Ute. Sanpete County got its name after Chief Sanpitch, Black Hawk's father, who was Shoshoni-Timpanogos. Historians have mistakenly identified the Timpanogos Nation with Colorado Tribes who are not Shoshone. (Source: Timpanogos Nation, Commission of Indian Affairs Annual Report 1865, O.H. Irish and Department of the Interior.) The Timpanogos are Snake-Shoshone and are not enrolled members of the Ute Nation and never were.

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