Chipeta – “Queen of the Utes”
Born in 1833, raised in New Mexico by Apache and Ute parents, Ouray grew up in the midst of conflicts between the US, its Army, Mexico and Indian tribes. The discovery of gold in Colorado dramatically increased conflicts between Utes and whites. Ouray learned from Indian agents that treaties with the US government were essential but seemingly made to be broken in disputes. Four such treaties between the government and Utes would be made in the lifetimes of Ouray and Chipeta who became her husband’s trusted confidant, treated like an equal. Chipeta became the only woman invited to Ute Councils.
After Ouray died, Chipeta married again and adopted six boys. She lived in poverty on the Ouray reservation in Utah. She died in 1924 (the same year that Indians became U.S. citizens) on the Ouray reservation, blind, at age 81. She is buried near Montrose where she and Ouray lived until 1880. Less than a year after her death, Chipeta was reburied near the house she had shared with Ouray near Montrose. This has since become a memorial site, a public park, and the Ute Indian Museum and dedicated to preserving the history of Colorado’s Ute people.
Around the time of her death, the public began to notice her again. She was invited to Colorado to visit Montrose and the Uncompahgre Plateau. President Taft insisted she ride with him on his train to watch the opening of the Gunnison Tunnel. When she died, the city of Montrose insisted she be exhumed from her grave in Utah and buried in Montrose in an elaborate ceremony. Chipeta was an amazing woman who will be remembered for her remarkable intelligence and judgment, empathy, bravery, strength and as a woman who worked tirelessly for her people.