Chipeta: wise woman and negotiator for the Tabeguache Utes
Registrar, Frontier Historical Society and Museum
Chipeta was a beautiful and composed woman of the Tabeguache band of the Ute Nation. It is said her name means “the charitable one,” truly defining the deeds and image of this remarkable Ute woman.
In 1859, at the age of 16, Chipeta married Ouray, a subchief of the Tabeguache Utes. An inseparable couple, Ouray seemed to prefer the company and council of Chipeta over male tribal members. As a member of the tribal council, Chipeta enjoyed a position held by no other woman.
Ouray served as interpreter and negotiator during the 1863, 1868 and 1873 treaty negotiations. Chipeta accompanied him on his trips east.
During the 1879 uprising at the White River Agency, Nathan Meeker was killed and several women taken captive by the Utes. After negotiations, the captive women were delivered to the home of Ouray and Chipeta on the Uncompahgre River, where Chipeta cared for them until all were returned to their families.
The killing of Nathan Meeker hastened Ute removal to the reservation and silenced Ouray’s efforts to keep peace with the whites.
On Aug. 24, 1880, Ouray died. On Sept. 4, 1881, western Colorado was opened to white settlement.
Afterward, Chipeta refused government aid. She instead embraced the Ute culture and lived in poverty at Bitter Creek, Utah.
Chipeta died on Aug. 17, 1924. She is buried near Montrose on the farm she shared with Ouray.
The Ute Indian Museum at Montrose will celebrate the life of Chipeta on Saturday, Aug. 16, during Chipeta Day. The public in invited to become acquainted with Ute culture and the life of a remarkable Ute woman.
“Frontier Diary” is provided to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday
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