Peoples of the Mesa Verde Region

Today: Mid-1900s to the Present



Ute Mountain Casino. Photo by Rebecca Hammond.

The Ute Mountain Casino in Towaoc, Colorado, opened in 1992. (See enlarged photograph.)

Today, the Southern Ute Reservation encompasses more than 1,100 square miles and is home to approximately 1,300 tribal members. The Ute Mountain Ute tribe has more than 2,000 members living on a reservation of 933 square miles, mostly in southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico, but also on a small allotment in southeastern Utah at White Mesa (learn more about the White Mesa Utes on the Utah History to Go Web site). In addition, both tribes are purchasing back lands taken from them by the U.S. government in the late 1880s. Like the Pueblo people, the Utes have maintained their language, customs, and religion even as they have become important participants in the local economy and broader American society.

Tractor in field. Photo by Paul Evans.

The Ute Mountain Ute Farm and Ranch Enterprise has allowed the development of commercial agriculture on tribal lands. (See enlarged photograph.)

The scarcity of water has always limited economic growth in the arid western United States, including the Mesa Verde region. In recent years, however, the construction of irrigation systems and the resolution of disputed water rights have resulted in the delivery of water to Ute lands. This has made possible the commercial cultivation of crops, including alfalfa, corn, and wheat, and has promoted the growth of the Ute ranching industry. In addition, numerous tribal enterprises have flourished, including casinos, construction and energy companies, real estate firms, and businesses that produce and sell Ute crafts. Today, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is the largest employer in Montezuma County.

Man and woman at Bear Dance. Photo by Wendy Mimiaga.

The Bear Dance, held every spring, continues to be an important event in Ute life. (See enlarged photograph.)

In 1972, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe set aside the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park to protect ancestral Pueblo and Ute archaeological sites. Today's Ute leaders are working to balance increased economic and educational opportunities with the preservation of Ute language and culture.

Learn more . . .

Read about the history and significance of the Bear Dance.

Learn more about today's Ute Indians by visiting the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Web sites.

More photos . . .
Little girls at Bear Dance. Photo by Wendy Mimiaga. Ute potter. Photo by Rebecca Hammond. Ute pottery canteens. Photo by Rebecca Hammond.
Ute dish with teepee design. Photo by Rebecca Hammond. Ute Mountain Tribal Complex. Photo by Rebecca Hammond.