Ute people and culture

Encyclopedia Article


The Ute are a Native American group living in southern Colorado, northern New Mexico, and eastern Utah, a state which is named after them. The name Ute means "land of the sun." They speak the Ute language, which belongs to the Numic branch of Uto-Aztecan language family, suggesting a connection between the Ute tribes and other indigenous groups found throughout what is now northern and central Mexico. The Ute were known to be expert horsemen and hunters; however, prior to European, specifically Spanish, contact, they primarily lived by collecting plants and other wild foods. The Ute have been considered traditional enemies of the Navajo, as well as other tribes in the U.S. Southwest, because of their practice of capturing women and children and then selling them to European settlers and other indigenous groups as slaves. Today, the Ute are found in three distinct groups on three separate reservations: the Uintah-Ouray Ute in Utah, the Ute Mountain Ute along the Colorado-New Mexico border, and the Southern Ute.

Photo Credit: 

"Members of Southern Ute Tribe at Francisco Fort Day, La Veta, Colorado, July 27, 2013" by Larry Lamsa is licensed under CC BY.

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