Ancient pathway: Marking trail in the Ute Pass


Some of the white marble markers still tell the story, though not as audibly and obviously, as they first did in 1911. U.P.T. routed out in relief on the flat slabs. Originally, there were 15 of them placed by the El Paso County Pioneers. The group said they wanted to mark what was left of the ancient Ute Pass Trail between Cascade and Manitou Springs.

The group was to dedicate the newly-marked, but anciently-traveled, route in 1912. Only trouble, according to Ute Pass historian Jan Pettit, was getting real Utes to help dedicate.

"The town of Colorado Springs held an eight-day summer carnival in 1911. The carnival committee had requested a group of Utes Indians from the Southern Reservation for exhibition at that event. The good citizens were informed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that he did not favor the promiscuous employment of Indians in Wild West Shows . He was, however, not opposed to their employment in exhibitions of a historical and elevating character. A small group of Ute Indians would be allowed to participate in the marking of the ancient Ute Pass Trail and to appear at the carnival. The carnival organizers were required to enter into a contract with the Indians by posting a bond and agreeing to pay travel and other expenses in addition to paying each adult Ute five dollars. The Indian events were so polar with those attending the carnival that the celebration's name was changed to Shan Kive (good time) with the hope of having more Indians attend in 1912," wrote Pettit in her book "Utes: The Mountain People."

But not everyone was happy. For at the carnival, Utes performed the Moon Dance and other customs that were discouraged at the reservation. In fact, most of the customs that were uniquely Ute, were discouraged by people of influence at the time like School Superintendent Werner of the Southern Ute Agency. They were apparently afraid all dancing, revived traditions and such, might set the tribe, once again, back on the war path.

But after a series of letters between Cato Sells, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, E.E. McKean, Superintendent of the Southern Ute Agency and Fred Mathews, general freight and passenger agent for the Florissant and Cripple Creek Railroad and chairman of the Shan Kive celebration, it was finally agreed that a party of 50 adult Utes, and their families could attend the 1912 dedication and carnival. The contract called for expenses and payment of a dollar in cash, with the express prohibition of allowing the tribal members to purchase intoxicating liquors.

"A large group of Ute Indians accompanied by several dignitaries began their ride down the Ute Pass Trail from Cascade toward Manitou Springs mounted on horses furnished by the Cusack family." wrote Pettit.

Buckskin Charlie, Chief of the Southern Utes, and Chipeta, widow of Ouray, were among the 75 or so Indians, that proceeded down the trail.

Frances Heizer, of the founding families of Cascade, described it thusly, at the time:

"Buckskin Charlie, chief of this tribe, had not been over the trail since the Utes had left this country over thirty years earlier. His birthplace was Garden of the Gods and he remembered every turn in this trail he had ridden in his youth. 'I'm seventy years old,' he said. "I never so happy in all my life.'"

The aging chief explained en route, that neutral territory topped the route, were Utes smoked the pipe of peace with enemies such as Comanche, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Sioux. They cached their arms and substituted choke cherry branches as an indication of peaceful intentions as they proceeded down to the "medicine waters" with ailing. They believed the springs were the abode of a spirit who breathed through the water, causing them to bubble and cure, at the same time.

As early as 1847, historical accounts by early travelers to this area like Frederick Ruxton, noted that the springs (which now are in Manitou Springs) was collector of native people, and trading location as a result.

"The basin of the spring was filled with beads and wampum, and pieces of red cloth and knives, whilst the surrounding trees were hung with strips of deer skin, cloth, and moccasins. The Indian regard with awe the "medicine" waters of these fountains as being the abode of a spirit who breathes through the transparent water, and thus, by his exhalations, causes the perturbation of its surface," wrote Ruxton in 1847.

Maude McFerran Price, curator of the El Paso Pioneers Museum, is quoted in Pettit's book regarding the importance of the trail marking.

"Today the trail lies marked forever, not alone by the marble tables, by the hopes and fears and joys and tears of the fast disappearing race of red men."



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