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1861 and Beyond: Uintah Reservation

In brief: 

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Bear Dance on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, no date.

In 1861 Abraham Lincoln created by presidential proclamation a reservation for Ute Indians in the Uintah Basin. By 1870 several bands of Utes had been forced to move there.

More of the story:

The relationship between the American Indians in the Utah Territory and the Mormon settlers was complicated, and as the Mormons began to expand their settlements throughout the rest of the territory, it only got more difficult.

Following the Walker War and other conflicts, government agents charged with “managing” the Indians in the territory thought that it was time that the Indians be given land by the government on which they could make their homes.  Brigham Young agreed, but only if the land that the Indians were given wasn’t land that the Mormons could use to settle.  In short, he wanted to make sure the Indians got the land that no one else wanted. 

They got the land no one else wanted.

Abraham Lincoln set aside a portion of the Uintah Basin for the Indians in 1861, and by 1870 there were several bands of Indians that were living on the reservation.  In 1881, the White River Utes in Colorado rebelled against the whites. They were defeated and forced to leave their homeland and move to the Uintah Reservation. 

The Uncompahgre Utes didn’t attack anyone, but the government forced them to move as well.  Their chief, Ouray, managed to get them a separate reservation.  The federal government merged the two four years later, in 1886.

People started to want the land after all.

However, when valuable mining land was found on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, the government pulled that strip of land out of the reservation.  Gradually over the 1880s and into the 20th century, the reservation got smaller as the government carved out land for mining, for a reservoir, and for a national forest.  In 1905 the government opened the reservation to white homesteaders, giving away the land that it had previously given the Utes. 

Because of many broken promises, the reservation is now ¼ its original size.