Chapter 12 - Ute Culture




  • Sean N. Bennett, RN, MSN - Assistant Professor - Utah Valley University - Orem, Utah
  • Tyler Barney, SN, UVU - Utah Valley University - Orem, Utah
  • Rachael Hill, RN - Utah
  • Lauren Hilton, SN, UVU - Utah Valley University - Orem, Utah
  • Yana Stepanova, RN, BSN - Utah
  • Tara Jae Taylor, SN, UVU - Utah Valley University - Orem, Utah
  • Dani Young, RN, - Utah








An important division of the Shoshone Indian Nation, who also allied with the Bannock and Paiute tribes, before the coming of the Mexican settlers the Ute ranged across the vast lands of central and western Colorado to eastern Utah, parts of Wyoming and New Mexico. The Utes are believed to have inhabited this land for at least 1000 years. There are multiple theories as to the origin of the name Ute. One is the tribes own name for themselves, Nuutsiu, meaning "the people." Another is from the Apache, meaning "High up."

Part of the Numic language group, the Ute were one of the early adopters of the horse. This enhanced their reputation of a war like people. The Ute were a nomadic people. The early Ute were not unified. They traveled in loose bands. They made allegiances with other groups. One tradition was, during times of war, they turned their female prisoners over to the Ute women to "deal with."

The first Europeans to come into contact with the Ute were in the 17th-century, The Spanish explores. The Ute traded with the Spanish to obtain horses, although they thought of them as their enemy. As European settlers increased in numbers seeking land and gold, resulted in increased conflict. The Ute did ally with the United States against other tribes including the Apache.

In the 1860's the government turned on that alliance and put the Ute on 1 of the 3 reservations located in New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

Historic Ute bands


The Ute were divided into several larger and smaller bands, which today mostly are organized as the Northern Ute Tribe, Southern Ute Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe:

Northern Ute Tribe (Uinta Utes)

  • Yapudttka' (YampadttkaYamparkaYamparika, lived in the Yampa River Valley and the adjacent regions, known today as White River Utes or Yamparika Utes)
  • Pahdteeahnooch (PahdteechnoochParianucParianuche, later called Uncompahgre , lived along the Grand River in Colorado and Utah, known today as Grand River Utes orParianuche Utes)
  • Taveewach (TaviwachTaviwacTabeguache, later called Uncompahgre, lived in river valleys of the Gunnison River and Uncompahgre River, as well in the Elk Mountains west toward the City of Grand Junction, known today as Taviwach Utes)
  • Muhgruhtahveeach (include all Northern Utes, who lived in Utah, known today as Utah Utes or Unita)
    • Cumumba (also called Weber Utes, lived along the Weber River, intermarried with the Western Shoshone,[1] known today as Cumumba Utes)
    • Toompahnahwach (TumpanuwacTumpanawach - ‘Fish-eaters’, also called Tumpipanogo or Timanogot,[2] lived in the Wasatch Range centered around Mount Timpanogos, along the southern and eastern shores of Utah Lake of the Utah Valley, and in Heber Valley, Uinta Basin and Sanpete Valley, utilized the river canyons of the Spanish Fork, Diamond Fork, Hobble Creek, American Fork and Provo River, in Spanish called Lagunas - ‘Lake People’, Come Pescados - ‘Fish-eaters’, known today as Timpanog Utes)
    • Sahpeech (SanpeechSanpits, lived in the Sanpete Valley and Sevier River Valley and along the San Pitch River, today known as San Pitch Utes)
    • Pahvant (lived west of the Wasatch Range in the Pavant Range towards the Nevada border along the Sevier River in the desert around Sevier Lake and Fish Lake, therefore they called themselves Pahvant - ‘living near the water’, in their way of living they resembled their neighbors, the Kaibab Paiute, and intermarried just like the Sahyehpeech with neighboring Goshute and Paiute, known as Pahvant Utes, today absorbed into the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah)[3][4]
    • Yoowetum (YoovwetuhUinta-at, later called Tavaputs, lived in the Uintah Basin, Uinta Mountains, including the Utah Lake and Great Salt Lake, along the Strawberry River in the west and the Tavaputs Plateau in the Green River-Colorado River-system in the east, known today as Uinta-Ats Utes)
    • Sahyehpeech (Sheberetch, lived in the vicinity of today Moab, had almost no direct contact with Europeans until 1850 Mormons penetrated into their territory, about 1870 by war and disease decimated Sahyehpeech joined other Ute bands, known today as Sheberetch Utes)
    • Moanunts (Moanumts, lived in the Upper Sevier River Valley in central Utah, in the Otter Creek region south of Salina and in the vicinity of Fish Lake, today absorbed into the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah)

Southern Ute Tribe

  • Capote Band of Utes (KapotaKahpota) lived east of the Great Divide south of the Conejos River and east of the Rio Grande towards the west site of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, they were also living in the San Luis Valley, along the headwaters of the Rio Grande and along the Animas River, centered in the vicinity of today Chama and Tierra Amarilla of Rio Arriba County, like the Mahgrahch the Kahpota maintained trade relations to Puebloan peoples and came into conflict with southern plains people because of their alliance with the Ollero band of the Jicarilla Apache.[5]
  • Muache Band of Utes (MouacheMahgruhchMahgrahchMuwac) lived along the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains from Denver, Colorado in the north to Las Vegas, New Mexico in the south, traded with northern Puebloan peoples, especially with Taos Pueblo, therefore often called Taos-Ute, ranged after adoption of the horse with their allies, the Llanero band of the Jicarilla Apache, southeastward as far as the Texas Panhandle.


Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

  • The Weminuche Band of Utes ("Weeminuche", WeemeenoochWiminucGuiguinuches) lived west of the Great Divide along the Dolores River of western Colorado, in the Abajo Mountains, in the Valley of the San Juan River and its northern tributaries and in the San Juan Mountains including the mesas and plateaus of eastern Utah.


Values and Norms



The Ute tribe had many traditions that were highly valued by them. A few of which are:

  1. The Sun Dance
  2. The Bear Dance


The Sun Dance


The Sun Dance was a ceremony held in July and lasted for four days. The emphasis on the Sun Dance was on individual or community esteem and welfare, and it came from the symptomatic feelings of despair held by the Indians at that time. During this time the people hoped for visions or cures for the sick. The dancing was done individually and not in couples like in the bear dance.

Ute Bear Dance

The Ute American Indians have rich cultural traditions, many of which continue through today. The Bear Dance is considered one of the most ancient and of the Ute ceremonies and is celebrated as a welcoming of spring as well as animals leaving hibernation. The first recorded observance of this celebration was by the Spanish explorers who first came upon the Ute Tribe in the fifteenth century, although it is believed to have started long before. Other Shoshonean speaking people celebrate the Bear Dance, and they believe it originated with the Utes in ancient times. (University of Utah American West Center; Utah Department of Heritage & Arts; The University of Utah J. Willard Mariott Library, 2008) The Bear Dance was done in couples and was to promote the waking of the bear so that they could be lead to food. The Ute's also had annual ceremonies that revolved around their hunting and gathering. The main purpose of this gathering was to stay in harmony with nature so that food would always be plentiful.



Everyone has a role in preparing for and participating in the Bear Dance. Singers prepare songs during the winter to be performed for the dance, the men prepare the Bear Dance corral, and the women prepare their family’s clothes for the dance. Tradition states when the first thunder in spring is heard, it is time for the Bear Dance; typically occurring around the middle of March. (Southern Ute Indian Tribe, 2015) Traditionally the men and women would wear long, soft feather arrangements as they enter the corral. Then, on the fourth and final day of the festivities, they all leave these arrangements on a tree outside of the corral. The Ute’s say doing so leaves your troubles behind and starts your life anew. (McNeil, 2012)



According to legend, two Ute brothers were asked to go out and hunt for meat. While they were hunting, they came across a group of small people who ran into the rocks in the hills when they were spotted. They recalled being told about these people, cliff dwellers, as they were called by their elders. They continued hunting and after a while, became tired and laid down to rest. Then, one brother noticed a bear nearby. This bear appeared to be standing, facing a tree, and dancing. The other brother got up and went to continue hunting while the first brother remained to observe the bear. The bear taught this young man his dance and the song that went with it. He told the young man to return to his people and teach them the dance and the song, which shows respect for the spirit of the bear. For, respect to the bear spirit makes one strong. (Southern Ute Indian Tribe, 2015) (23, 26, 27, 33)'



Ute Indians do not have formalized beliefs when it comes to religion but their beliefs are very important to them. They believe that the concept of power is obtained through dreams, visions, or from mythical beings. Religion is based on more of an individual level rather than as a group. Senawahv is named as the Ute creator, it's believe that Senawahv is the creator of the land, animals, food, plants, and the Utes themselves. This is considered to be their God figure. Utes believe that the world was created by this same spirit.



It's believed that the Utes are very superstitious people because of all the ceremonies and rights they perform. They believe that they have to be in harmony with nature in order to have food and shelter. The Ute people believe in being very grateful for the things they have, especially food and shelter. At times they fear that by not being grateful that they may be punished and not be blessed with food or shelter.



The Great Spirit, the God Senawahv

The Utes believe in the God Senawahv(sen-a-wav) who created the land, animals, plants, food, and the people of the Utes themselves. They believe in this Great Spirit as the creator of the existing world. It is a common practice of reverence to the nature as the reflection of the Great Spirit. The application of the religious belief is a matter of the individual practice.



Cultural Utes practice the religion of Shamanism, which is based on a belief of healing and nature. Shamans perform their healing through dance and songs that are learned through dreams. In the Ute culture, both men and women practice Shamanism. The shamans are believed to have supernatural powers. People go to the shaman to receive help with health, courage, hunting abilities, and defense. The shamans assist the members to gather the supernatural force to cure disease of the body and the disease of the spirit. The shamans enter the supernatural realm by executing a ritual dance accompanied by the rhythmical recitation of a prayer. Shamans do not have a specific pattern to follow and decide how to use their powers individually. Expression of these powers could include praying, acting, singing, and using items. These items include eagle feathers, eagle bones, fetish bags, and medicinal plants.

Conversion in History


When the Ute tribe came into contact with the Europeans they were asked but not required to convert to become Mormons. The Europeans were exploring and decided to settle in an area and create a colony. The Europeans wanted religious uniformity throughout the area so they asked the Utes to become Mormons. Most Utes were fine with the change but some kept with the original religion. So there after, both religions were practiced throughout the tribe. ]] (3, 8, 10, 15)

Sense of Self and Space


There are number of scholarly writings about Ute cultural identity. Despite of the Ute tribal group members relocation and urbanization they all share a common identity- they are all the members of one “family”. The idea of connectedness forms a foundation of tribal self perception. It is manifested by sense of belonging or relation not only to each other but to the natural world and the spiritual realms as well. Therefore, the connectedness to family, community, tribe, and the whole of creation is a focal point of the Utes perception of who they are. According to Hill (2006) the connectedness imparts in the individual member a sense of fitting and being a part of the society at large (pg. 212). Furthermore, much of the self identity is understood by the Utes as a deeply emotional and personal relationship to a bigger than themselves being- “the real important identity pieces are held inside” (Lucero, 2014, pg. 14). One of the aspects of the internal sense of self is the resistance to assimilation and the understanding how critical it is to maintain connectedness to prevent the loss of the tribal identity. The notion to maintain self identity or the sense of self influence their sense of space. The resistance to assimilation forge the communal ties even stronger, thus preserving tribal connectedness creates a space in their minds where they are all inseparable. According to Lucero (2014) the members intentionally create a personal space where they feel safe and secure. This “third space” is defined as the place where their ethnic identity is completely different from the one they maintain while living outside the tribal boundaries. And that concept of “space” found to be an emotional or psychological refuge from the city life.

(2, 25)

Communication Style and Language


In the past, the Ute Indians spoke Southern Numic. This language was spoken by the majority of Indians in the Great Basin area. This language is a part of the Uto-Aztecan language family. It is believed that people who spoke the Ute language separated from other Ute-Aztecan speaking groups which included the Paiute, Goshute, Shoshone Bannock, Comanche, Chemehuevi, and several Californian tribes. When the Spaniards and Europeans began to colonize North America they had a very large influence on the Ute language. The language that the Utes speak today is called Shoshonean. Shoshonean is believed to be very sacred and important in maintaining their culture. People who have been raised primarily in the Ute culture may consider Shoshonean to be their primary language and English to be their secondary language. This language can also be written and the Utes use is to read and write. Many books, including textbooks, a dictionary, and the Bible, have been translated into Shoshonean. Some Ute tribes fear that the language is dying out. There have been many steps taken to try to regain their native tongue. A program was started in 1984 among the Ute tribes to help teach the language. This program was called the Ute Language Preservation Act. According to the act, schools on the Ute reservations would only teach the Ute language until the students graduated from high school. Classes were also held for adults so that they could learn their native language. In 2000 the Southern Ute Tribal Academy opened. This is a private school that provides education and day care for children between the ages of six months and sixth grade. Part of the curriculum studied in the Academy includes a comprehensive Ute language program. Recently, the University of Kansas received over $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education to fund a speech-language pathologist training program. The program is called Culturally Responsive Early Literacy Instruction: American Indian/Alaskan Native, and will provide early intervention for preschool and elementary aged children who show speech-language impairments. The program will also focus on being culturally compentent and use culturally relevant materials in treatments. The program will try to fill a gap by recruiting American Indian students to KU's speech-language pathology master's program. The hope is to help children improve their language skills while still learning their native tongue and keeping with their culture.

(7, 13, 18, 24)

Food and Feeding Habits


Because they were hunter-gatherers, Utes’ feeding habits were largely governed by the food available to them during various seasons. In the summer and fall, their diet was filled with meat, berries, roots, and flat bread made from ground wild grass seeds. Buffalo meat was particularly important during this time, and roasted beaver tail was considered a delicacy. Berries included chokecherry, wild raspberry, gooseberry, and buffalo berry. Because of the scarcity of food during the winter, Utes prepared by storing part of the food available during warmer months. This was done in several ways. The first was by cutting buffalo meat into strips that could dry in the sun. They also caught fish in willow baskets and dried them. Setting berries out to dry help provide them with important nutrients such as vitamin C. Another common food was made by mixing cricket, grasshopper, and cicada meat with berries to form fruit cakes. These cakes were either stored for winter or used for food by travelling Utes. In the spring, Utes would eat the first tender shoots of grass, dig for root vegetables such as carrots and sego lilies, collect duck eggs, and find wild potatoes and onions in the mountain snow-melt runoff. These were combined in various ways to create soups.

The Utes were hunter-gatherers, and moved from place to place frequently as they gathered food for their families. Ute men hunted deer, elk, buffalo, and small game. Ute women gathered roots, pine nuts, seeds and fruits. Ute Indians also used to enjoy eating grasshoppers and other insects. The Spanish thought this was disgusting... but the Utes thought it was disgusting that the Spanish ate eggs!

Because food gathering was an immense task, the people learned that by alternating hunting and food gathering sites the environment would have time to replenish. The Nuche only took what they required, never over harvesting game or wild plants. These principles were closely adhered to in order for the people to survive.

In early spring and into the late fall, men would hunt for large game such as elk, deer, and antelope; the women would trap smaller game animals in addition to gathering wild plants such as berries and fruits. Wild plants such as the amaranth, wild onion, rice grass, and dandelion supplemented their diet. Some Ute bands specialized in the medicinal properties of plants and became expert in their use, a few bands planted domestic plants.

(5, 14, 16, 17)

Time Consciousness


There are two opposite concepts about time present in the Native American culture that is true for the Ute tribe as well.

  1. First, as a group Utes are clock-conscious
  2. Second they disregard time boundaries.

In the following section I will address the introduction to the clock-consciousness to the Ute tribe. The process by which the concept of meted time inculcated into the lives of Utes introduction had been a complex and contingent. It was complicated in the sense that the adoption to the meted time required the elimination or erosion of Utes traditional understanding of time as a cyclical unfolding of the Nature. However, due to the continuous interactions and the increased degree of interactions between the European settlers (later Americans) and the Native American, the understanding of the clock-time had evolved in the minds of the indigenous population. In general, the Native American culture is repugnant to the clock associated time consciousness. The Utes had inculcated the concept of “clock” via interaction with the LDS missionaries and educators. It is interesting to note that missionaries while teaching the Native population about Christianity did follow the tribal functioning around the sun by assigning the task completion according to the sundials. In the present time, the Utes understanding of time is multidimensional. They deal with the linearity of the clock-consciousness and the cyclicity of time. The clock time had joined the natural times, the religious times, and the personal times organizing the present for the Utes.


Relationships and Social Organization


Basic Overview: Ute social organizations were largely family groups. Typically a male headed the household, except in the case of a single-parent family that could be led by a mother. Families were especially mother-led during times of Ute-Anglo conflict because many men died in battles. Informal councils within the family were used to make decisions. There were certain older members of the family, both male and female, who were considered Elders and whose opinions were especially valued. On a large scale, Utes lived in groups called bands that were made up of a few residential units or families. These were loosely united under one leader, who was typically a male hunter or someone who was considered wise. In some Ute bands, the leader was a chief who would lead the people in religious and cultural rites. Utes did not have a formal law enforcement system, so people who violated social norms were generally punished by personal retaliation from the individual or family they had wronged. In the modern era, Utes on reservations are governed by a tribal council. This council oversees everything from law-making to providing proper water facilities. Serious crimes committed on a Ute reservation are now prosecuted under federal law, diminishing family-based retaliation.

Kin Groups and Descent. No clans or other formal social units are known for the Ute. Residential units were the main level of organization, with a husband tending to live with the wife’s family once married. These units, which consisted of several related families, were exogamous. Status within residential units was based on age, sex, and generation.

Kinship Terminology. Ute kin terms followed a skewed bifurcate collateral pattern.

Socialization. Children were desirable and much attention was paid to the pregnant mother, birth, and child rearing. Often young children were tended by older siblings and by grandparents. Children were spoiled and indulged in a permissive environment. Ridicule was the primary means of discipline. Puberty rites were observed for both girls and boys. First menses was celebrated by the family by offering instructions to the girl and imposing food taboos and behavioral restrictions until the end of menstruation. Male puberty rites were not so well defined, but they usually revolved around the first killing of a large game animal. The boy was forbidden to eat of this kill, which was often given to an older relative. To celebrate the event further, the boy was bathed by a special hunter and painted red. Traditional education in crafts, Subsistence skills, and oral histories were provided to children by the appropriate grandparent. Education levels among modern Ute youths are low, with only half completing high school.

Social Organization. Ute social life was rooted in the Family. Within the family and among family groups elders, male and female, were respected and given special consideration. Prior to European contact, household leadership tended to be male-oriented, but with the growing numbers of single parent families, females are more often in family leadership roles.


The Ute Government: Originally, the Ute tribe was regarded by the members as one extended family. The leadership patter has been de-centralized and non-pyramidal. There was not a single leader that managed the all aspect of the tribal life. The leaders emerged naturally by showing the great wisdom, talent for war, hunting, medicine and religion. The decisions the leaders made were not binding. However, the members regarded the leaders with the respect. In this way, the logic and pragmatism of their decisions deflected possible resistance from community members. In addition, the tribal elderly have been regarded as the people of distinct wisdom and their advice would be followed due to the people’s respect of experience and knowledge.

With the introduction of horses to the lives of Utah Indians, and Utes in particular, the community structure had developed into twelve major bands that replaced the internally divided, family-based communities. The band leaders would direct the seasonal hunts and community gatherings, and individual family leaders would direct the family lives. However, the increased mobility brought more confrontation with enemy tribes, thus expanding the power and function of band leaders. Yet, the band leader’ power continued sharing power and continued to lead by consensus rather than coercion.

(4, 9, 11, 20)

Education and Learning


Education Children are very important in the Ute Indian tribe. Education for the Ute children is the responsibility of every member of the tribe however was traditionally provided by a grandparent and included education in subjects such as crafts, everyday survival skills, and Ute history (Janetski, 1996). Much of a child’s education was gained through helping and watching (St. Rosemary Educational Institution, 2015).



1891 – Fort Lewis changes from a military base to an Indian boarding school (Southern Ute Indian Tribe, 2015). The school taught kindergarten to sixth grade with 51 children enrolled for the first school year representing the Ute, Navajo, Sioux, and Apache tribes (Fort Lewis College, 2015). “In addition to teaching the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, its mission was an industrial training school (agriculture, home economics, carpentry)” (Fort Lewis College, 2015). Native American dress was not approved of as assimilation was a key point taught at the school. The culture of America was stressed and Indian names were discouraged, leading to the adoption of new, more “American” names such as George Washington or Thomas Jefferson (Fort Lewis College, 2015).

1893 – Reports reveal that 65 acres were being cultivated by the school “producing 18 tons of oat hay, 17,350 pounds of potatoes, 200 pounds of turnips, 2,973 pounds of onions, 240 pounds of beans and 2,700 pounds of other vegetables” (Fort Lewis College, 2015). 1894 – A new superintendent began requiring the students to dress in uniforms, perform military drills, and put on a parade every Sunday (Fort Lewis College, 2015).

1901 – The school reached their peak enrollment of 345 students who were cultivating 200 acres of land (Fort Lewis College, 2015). “Most of the buildings inherited from the military fort were in very poor condition and presented a huge fire danger because stoves and oil lamps were used for heat and light” (Fort Lewis College, 2015).

1933 – Edna Hood, a member of the Southern Ute tribe, became the first tribal member to earn a college degree; an Associate’s in Nursing (Stryker, 2013).

1984 – The Tribal Higher Education Scholarship Committee and Tribal Higher Education scholarship program are established after Education is declared a top priority of the Tribal Council (Southern Ute Indian Tribe, 2015).

1903 – Disease was prevalent in Indian boarding schools, believed to be due to the “children’s isolated immune systems” (Fort Lewis College, 2015). For this reason, the government decided to support schools which were based on the reservation. The Ute tribe responded by building a school in Ignacio, CO for their members

1954 – Tensions were high between what was considered mixed-blood (less than 50% Ute) and full-blood (greater than 50% Ute) tribe members. Mixed-blood Ute’s were considered to have “better Anglo contacts and better education leading to more political power in tribal affairs” (Janetski, 1996).

1969 – “The Southern Ute Montessori Head Start opened its doors…becoming one of the first tribal programs in the country” (Stryker, 2013).

1996 – The Ute tribe began one of the country’s first Early Head Start programs, serving children between 6 weeks and 3 years of age (Stryker, 2013). The school board amended its language policy to state “It shall be the policy of the Northern Ute Tribe to require Ute language instruction for Ute and other Indian students in grade levels beginning with preschool through 12th grade” (Wopsock, 1996).

1999 – Census records show that over the past 66 years, 1933-1999, 103 tribal members completed some form of higher education; approximately 1.5 students per year (Stryker, 2013).

2000 – A private school called The Southern Ute Tribal Academy opened, offering education and daycare to children aged 6 months to 6th grade (Southern Ute Indian Tribe, 2015). The curriculum included a “comprehensive Ute language program” (Southern Ute Indian Tribe, 2015). 2012 – Census records show that over the past 13 years, 1999-2012, 290 tribal members completed some form of higher education; a drastic increase to about 22 students per year.

2015 – Ignacio High School commencement celebrated the graduation of 36 Ute Tribe members (Stryker, 2013). Of these, 7 graduated with honors, 2 were Magna Cum Laude graduating with a 3.8 GPA, 2 were Suma Cum Laude graduating with a 4.0 GPA, 7 were national honors society members, and 2 were National Society of High School Scholars. (Stryker, 2013).

(1, 22, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34)

Work Habits and Practices


The Ute Indians have a very strong work ethic, this was true of them from the beginning of their time. It was always required that they be a resourceful people, the men were required to hunt and gather so that they could feed their families. If they didn’t do that then the whole tribe would suffer. For this reason, the tribes would break off into smaller family units in order to make sure that everyone was cared for. From early spring to late fall, the men would hunt many different types of animals, a few of the animals they hunted were, antelope, elk, and deer. The same holds true to many of the Ute Indians today, the men still provide for their families by hunting in this season to provide enough meat for their families to have year round. In the early days the Ute men would use digging sticks, weed beaters, baskets, bows and arrows, flint knives, arrow heads, and throwing sticks for the various works that needed to be completed. Nowadays the Utes have many more technological advances to where they have more tools and weapons to help them with all of their tasks.

Ute women are more likely to be found taking care of their children. It would be common place to see a Ute woman cooking, cleaning, and caring for the household chores while the men were out hunting and gathering. However, it would not be uncommon to see the women use trapping to trap smaller animals that they could eat and use their fur. Ute women are also very resourceful and make all of their own clothing, they are good sewers and will use the skins of the animals that their men kill in order to make outer coverings for themselves.

Ute Indians as of today have played a major role in local, state, and the national economy. The tribe has strived to created and operated new businesses on and off the reservation, some of the areas they have strived in are oil and gas production, natural gas gathering, real estate development, housing construction, sand and gravel production, media, and gaming industries. Their economic activity generates millions of dollars a year for their local areas.

(6, 12, 19, 21)


When a healthcare worker is taking care of a person of Native American descent, including Ute Indians, there are some social considerations that should be addressed.

Welcome the patient. Introduce yourself and allow the patient time to do the same. Don't be surprised if the handshake may appear weak because it is customary for a soft handshake to signify respect. Use eye contact carefully. Initial eye contact is expected, but after that it can be a sign of disrespect if a healthcare provider continues to seek and hold eye contact. Take your time. Culturally Native Americans are an unhurried people and may take offense to doctors or nurses that hurriedly go through procedures. Respect silence. After explaining information to your patient allow them time to reflect and consider their options. Silence is respected among Native Americans and they may need time to process everything. Understand tribal diagnosis. Because traditional and scientific medicine are not mutually exclusive, the patient may have been previously treated by a tribal diagnostician. Also, their procedures for treatment may be different than normal mainstream medicine. Be respectful of that and ask open questions to get the full picture of what may be going on. Accommodate tribal healing. Patients may still want to practice some tribal/traditional healing or ceremonies. Try to accomodate them the as much as possible, and do not pass on your assumptions of whether you believe the practice will work or not. Show special respect to the elderly. Great respect is given to the elderly in the Native American culture, and it would be offensive if a healthcare provider did not show that respect to the elderly. Involve the extended family. The extended family plays an important role in health of patient and may be included in the decision making. Treatment may even be delayed until an elder of the family is consulted first. Also, it is common to have many family members come to visit a patient in the hospital. Try to accomodate them as much as is possible. Give and expect generosity. Indian culture encourages giving, sharing, and cooperation. Generosity and doing things for others are regarded highly. If a family of a patient chooses to give a gift than know it is expected to receive that gift graciously.


External Links






1. Fort Lewis College. (2015). Indian Boarding School: 1891-1911. Retrieved from Fort Lewis College: The Old Fort:

2. Hill, D. (2006) . Sense of belogning as connectedness, American Indian worldview and mental health. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 20(5), 210-216.


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22. Janetski, J. (1996, June 17). Ute. Retrieved from Encyclopedia:

23. Janetski, Joel. "Ute." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1996. Retrieved May 27, 2015 from

24. KU Announces speech-language program for American Indian children. (2014). ASHA Leader, 19(3), 13.

25. Lucero, N. (2014). It's not about place, it's about what's inside”: American Indian women negotiating cultural connectedness and identity in urban spaces. Women's Studies International Forum, 42(12), 9-18.

26. McNeil, L. D. (2012). Ute indian bear dance: Related myths and bear glyphs. Boulder: University of Colorado.

27. Southern Ute Indian Tribe. (2015). Culture. Retrieved from Southern Ute Indian Tribe:

28. Southern Ute Indian Tribe. (2015). History of the Southern Ute. Retrieved from Southern Ute Indian Tribe:

29. Southern Ute Indian Tribe. (2015). Ute Indians: History: Chronology. Retrieved from The Southern Ute Indian Tribe:

30. St. Rosemary Educational Institution. (2015). Ute Indians: History, Culture, Tribe. Retrieved from School Work Helper:

31. Stryker, A. (2013, July 3). A brief history of tribal education. Retrieved from The Southern Ute Drum:

32. Tribe info taken from Ute people -

33. University of Utah American West Center; Utah Department of Heritage & Arts; The University of Utah J. Willard Mariott Library. (2008). Utah American Indian Digital Archive. Retrieved from Utah Indians: Ute:

34. Wopsock, F. (1996). Ute Language Policy. Retrieved from Cultural Survival: