History Colorado has extensive holdings of Ute artifacts—clothing, headdresses, baskets, beadwork, cradleboards, bows and arrows, ceramics and photographs—the bulk of the materials made in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In the collection are items that once belonged to Ute leaders, artifacts that show the expert workmanship of Ute craftspeople, and objects used in everyday life. Together, these remarkable materials help us interpret the history of Colorado’s remaining resident tribes: the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, along with their sister tribe, the Ute Indian Tribe on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Utah.
At the tribes’ request, we held a comprehensive review of the entire Ute Collection earlier this month. Designated representatives from all three tribes traveled to Denver for the occasion. As History Colorado’s liaison for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), I worked with NAGPRA assistant Chantalle Hanschu to comb through the museum’s archives and update catalog records so we could provide the tribal representatives with all available information about every artifact. So the representatives could easily view the entire Ute collection, we retrieved every single item from storage.
The project was made possible by a National Park Service NAGPRA consultation/documentation grant awarded to History Colorado. During their visit, the tribal representatives shared their insights with us about the objects: how they were made, how they were used, what the designs on the artifacts mean. They also shared their understanding of how the artifacts should be cared for and exhibited, particularly when some of them go on view at History Colorado’s soon-to-be-expanded Ute Indian Museum in Montrose. And, they identified any artifacts that might be considered “cultural items” as defined by NAGPRA and thus in need of further consultation as to how they should be managed in the future.
To see images and item records for many of our Ute artifacts, visit our online collection at h-co.org/collections and click on “Collection Highlights.”
— Sheila Goff, NAGPRA Liaison & Curator of Archaeology