Utes - Horses
The Utes were not always so strong and feared by others. In the years before the introduction of the horse, they were nomadic bands who roamed the mountain and valleys of the west. The horse allowed them to become proud people feared by other Indian tribes. If their own harvests weren't large enough to feed their people, the Utes would often raid other Indian villages taking their goods and horses. When the Spanish came to America, they brought the horse with them and introduced it to the native people who had never seen a horse. The Utes quickly learned how the horses could be very useful to them. When they moved from camp to camp, the horses could carry their load. With horses, they could ride out on the plains to hunt buffalo. Then the people would have plenty to eat. When the enemies came to find them in the mountains, the Utes could either stand and fight or get away quickly with fast horses. This was very important as their enemies would soon have horses, too.
How did the Utes get horses? The Spanish and the other Indians would not give their horses away. And the Utes did not have gold or silver to buy horses. The Utes saw that they had to trade things in order to get what they wanted from the Spanish. But the Utes were poor Indians and often had only enough meat and hides for their own needs. When they could, they traded these items for the valuable horses. The Spanish needed people to care for their horses and sheep on their huge ranches. Sometimes the Spanish captured Ute children and sometimes the children voluntarily worked on the ranched so they could learn how to ride and to take care of the horses. And, sometimes these Utes stole the horses and took them back to their families.
Chief Ouray, one of the most famous Ute chiefs, was one of these children who worked on the Spanish ranches. While he worked on theses ranches, he learned to speak four languages and later in his life became a statesman for his people in the treaty negotiations in Washington, D.C.