Pagosa's Past: Another agreement with the Southern Utes

2021/03/oldtimer-030421-scan0073-300x223.jpg Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Early Pagosa suffered from fires such as this one looking northeast across the downtown area. The M.E. Church is shown on Lewis Street.

By John M. Motter

PREVIEW Columnist

We’ve been writing about the Southern Utes of Ignacio and their contacts with the white settlers of Colorado during 1876. 

The Utes were unhappy because gold miners were traipsing across their reservation without so much as a ‘scuse me.

The Army general sent with troops to protect the Colorado citizens commissioned to negotiate with the Utes was nervous because he knew the Utes were “well armed” and unhappy.

The commissioners were Maj. Gen. Edward Hatch, the Honorable Willam Strickney and N. D. McFarland. Col. Albert Pfeiffer was retained as an interpreter.

While waiting for all of the Ute Indian tribes to arrive, a discussion was held by those present. The commissioners learned they were in for a tough session when they were told by Aguilar, one of the tribal chieftains: “We sold only the mines and we told them they could take the mountains, not for horses or anything, only for money, but we didn’t get any money. Tis now six years since 1872 when we last received any money. Who deceived us?” 

It soon became obvious to the commissioners that the Southern Utes would refuse to move to the White River Ute Reservation at Meeker in northwestern Colorado. They did not trust the government. They had intended to sell only the mining lands. They were supposed to receive $80,000 in annuities from the government for those lands. After authorizing Pfeiffer to negotiate with the Southern Utes, the commissioners departed for other agencies.

When they returned, they found that Pfeiffer had reached an agreement with the Southern Utes. A council was held at Pagosa Springs Nov. 9, 1878, to formalize the agreement. It was signed by the headman of each of the three Southern Ute bands.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Utes would surrender claims to the rectangular shaped land known as the southern portion of the Ute Reservation, as well as that portion north of the mining district. They were to be prepared to move onto the land designated for the new reservation during the spring and summer of 1879. 

The new agency was to be located on the Navajo River with lands located on the headwaters of the Piedra, San Juan, Blanco, Navajo and Chama rivers.