Treaties and changing territories

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Photo courtesy John M. Motter A lot of lumber is shown drying here at the Pagosa Lumber Company mill site in Pagosa Springs. Before it closed in 1916, A.T. Sullenburger’s mill was the largest mill of its kind in Colorado. It was located where the high school and sports fields now are.
Photo courtesy John M. Motter
A lot of lumber is shown drying here at the Pagosa Lumber Company mill site in Pagosa Springs. Before it closed in 1916, A.T. Sullenburger’s mill was the largest mill of its kind in Colorado. It was located where the high school and sports fields now are.

The early years of contact between Utes and whites were governed by a series of treaties, beginning with the Calhoun Treaty of 1849 in which the United States promised to protect the Ute Indians if they would cease raiding in northern New Mexico, recognize U.S. government jurisdiction over their lands, adopt the government’s laws and follow its Indian policy. Treaty provisions allowed the government to enter the reservation (Ute reservation boundaries were not defined at that time) and construct military posts. It is doubtful if the Utes understood all of the implications of this treaty.

Even though boundaries were not defined, Ute rations were distributed at Taos, where Kit Carson lived and was the Indian agent for both Utes and Apaches. The Jicarilla Apaches also received rations at Taos.

Historically, the Southern Utes and Jicarilla Apaches were close and the Utes often wintered in New Mexico near the Apaches. This agency was set up to serve the Southern Utes, but only the Moache band living on the east side of the San Luis Valley showed up for rations.

Slowly, the government shifted its agencies northward in an attempt to control the Utes. Treaties were negotiated in 1849, 1863, 1868 and 1873. Ute reservation boundaries shrank from (1) all of Colorado west of the Continental Divide, to (2) all of the San Juan Mountains, to (3) a 10-mile south-to-north strip of land in Colorado bounded on the south by the line separating New Mexico Territory from Colorado and running from the Colorado/Utah border on the west eastward to just west of Pagosa Springs.

Following the 1850 Abiquiu Treaty, Abiquiu was made a Capote Ute Agency even though Moaches also came there. Jicarilla Apaches also received rations at Abiquiu. At differing times, goods were also distributed at Maxwell’s ranch near Cimarron, at Conejos, at Tierra Amarilla and at Amargo.

Finally, the government’s policy was for the nomadic Utes and Apaches to settle down and become farmers. Attempts were made to force the Utes and Apaches to live on designated reservation lands. In 1863 at Conejos, the government reservation plans for the Utes were ready. The Utes were not. They did not like the idea of becoming farmers and they did not like the proposed reservation location.

Of the three Southern Ute tribes, the Capotes attended the 1863 Conejos meeting, one member of the Moache band attended, and the Weminuches ignored the whole thing. Many of the negotiations for the 1873 treaty were conducted at Pagosa Springs.

We’ll elaborate on that agreement, called the Brunot Treaty, in next week’s column.