GPS Location: 37.215092, -107.795628
Miles from Chama: 101.85 Miles
Miles from Durango: 8.28 Miles
The Ute people are the oldest residents of Colorado, inhabiting the mountains and vast areas of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Eastern Nevada, Northern New Mexico and Arizona. According to tribal history handed down from generation to generation, these people lived here since the beginning of time. The Utes lived off the land, traveling and camping in familiar sites and use well established routes.
The routes the Utes established were used by other Native American tribes and Europeans. The Ute Trail became known as the Spanish Trail used by Spanish explorers as early as the fifteenth century when Alvar Nunez Caveza de Vaca (1488-1558) and Juan de Onate (1550-1630) were sent from Spain to explore the uninhabited areas of Texas and New Mexico, claiming vast lands for their Spanish rulers.
During the sixteenth century Spaniards began to colonize New Mexico, establishing their domination wherever possible. As the Spanish advanced northward into Ute territory, the customs, livestock, and language they brought began to influence the Ute’s way of life. These changes were to have far-reaching impacts upon the Ute people. The Utes believed that they didn’t own the land, but that the land owned them. Contact with the European was to end a way of life the people had known for centuries.
As westward expansion increased and eastern tribes were displaced and relocated to barren lands in the west, pioneers began to travel west. Gold and silver were discovered in the San Juan Mountains and the Utes soon found themselves in a losing battle to retain their homelands. Around 1895 the Southern Ute reservation was created. It was 15 miles wide and 110 miles long and the Hunter Act enabled lands within the Ute Strip to be allotted to tribal members, and the surplus lands homesteaded and sold to non-Indians. So, within the Reservation, there are private land holdings scattered throughout.
The Southern Ute Tribe has approximately 1,400 tribal members, with half the population under the age of 30. The Southern Ute Reservation is situated on a 1,064 square mile (681,000 acres) reservation. The tribe is governed by a seven member Tribal Council elected by the membership. 
By Ivana1975 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Photos available from the Denver Public Library
Photos available from the The Library of Congress