A Shaman Mystery
The Ute Tribes of the West
When Charlie Moon, lawman and member of the Ute tribe, starts investigating a disappearance centered around a vitally important paleontological dig, something very old, dark and dangerous from the Ute tribe's ancient history is involved in a very contemporary murder.
The Ute tribe is one of the oldest in Colorado and Utah (which takes its name from them.) They speak Shoshonean, a dialect of the Uto-Aztecan language. While no one knows exactly when the Ute came from the north and west to what is now present-day Colorado and Utah, it is known that they ended up in what was once Anasazi territory (precursors of present-day Pueblo Indians, and one of the most ancient tribes known in the West.)
Nomadic by nature, the Utes were hemmed in once they settled into the mountainous area of Colorado and Utah by the aggressive tribes that surrounded them. To the northeast and east of the Utes were the Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Apache, Comanche, Sioux, Pawnee, and Kiowa. Navaho and Apache lived to the south, and to the west and northwest were the Shoshones, Paiutes, Snakes, Bannocks, and Goshutes.
Originally the Ute were made up of small family units which evolved into seven loosely confederated mini-tribes: the Mouache, the Capote, the Weeminuche, the Tabehuache, the Grand River Utes (also known as Parlanuc), the Yampa, and the Uintah Utes.
Hunters and gatherers during the mild seasons, the Utes celebrated the winters with festivals, extended visits, and other social activities. Marriages and other important life events were arranged during this communal period.
Their way of life changed dramatically with the arrival of Spanish colonizers and their horses in the 16th century. The Utes became buffalo hunters and developed dependence on the roaming herds for their new way of life. They were able to increase trade with other tribes and expanded their territorial areas. They gradually began to gather more powerful units amongst the scattered mini-tribes and banded together under a single group and leader. Their power would reach its apex in the 17th century.
Mexican colonialists replaced the Spanish in 1821, but continued the peaceful trade policies of Spain until farmers tried to settle on the Utes' land. In 1948, after the Mexican-American War, the U.S. assumed control of the area and agreed to respect the property of the Utes.
But in 1859, gold was discovered in the Colorado area and soon the agreements were violated as more and more miners encroached upon the Utes.
After decades of disagreements and the gradual appropriation of the Utes' land, two reservations were agreed upon: the Southern Ute and the Ute Mountain Reservation.
Currently occupying these territories, the Ute today work to continually develop ways and means of building the community and preserving their heritage and culture.
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