Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Ute are a Native American group located in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. At the time of European contact in the 1600s and 1700s, the Ute occupied much of central and eastern Utah and all of western Colorado, as well as minor portions of northwestern New Mexico. The Ute lived in this vast region as nomadic hunters and gatherers until their confinement to reservations in the 1870s. With the loss of traditional land, they adopted subsistence food production patterns following the European pattern. Modern employment is largely in energy-related fields or service jobs.


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North America --Southwest and Basin


United States

OWC Code


Collection Information

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

In addition to this culture summary, the NT19 Ute collection consists of 11 documents, all of them in English, covering a variety of cultural, historical and environmental information on different sections of Ute society from pre-contact times to the 1980s. The works of Julian Steward (1931, no. 39, 1974, no. 3 and 1974, no. 4) and Anne Smith (1974, no. 24) provide the earliest systematic attempts at reconstructing pre-reservation Ute culture and society, with particular emphasis on organization and composition of bands, settlement patterns and land use practices, as remembered by elderly informants in the 1930s and 1940s. These works also include detailed first hand descriptions of a bear dance performance, a peyote meeting and the sun dance which the authors personally observed. Jorgensen conducted extensive field work (1958-1964) and his work (1965, no. 19) is the most detailed description of Ute culture, history, economy and religion in the collection. The remaining works compliment these accounts by documenting and examining more specific aspects of Ute culture including mythology (Mason, 1910, no. 17), concepts of nature and power (Romeo, 1985, no. 48), effects of oil money and development intervention (Lang, 1971, no. 49), aspects of history (Callaway, 1986, no. 50), except (D’Azevedo, 1986, no. 51) which is a detailed list of existing bibliographies on Ute ethnohistory and ethnography. It is evident that Ute society was internally divided into several, but continuously fluid, bands and the history and interaction of each band with the state and market forces varied greatly.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Collection Indexing Notes

Bands (including band composition and inter-band relations) – use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)", possibly with "SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND GROUPS (571)" and "INTER - COMMUNITY RELATIONS (628)"

Bear dance - use "DANCE (535)"

Berdache ( tuwusuwi, half man, half woman) - use "HOMOSEXUALITY (838)"

Camps – use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)", possibly with "ANNUAL CYCLE (221)" and/or "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)"

Council of old men- use "COUNCILS (623)"

Ghost dance – use "CONGREGATIONS (794)" and "CULT OF THE DEAD (769)"

Nuu-kani (also called tipi, small buffalo skin-covered lodge) – use "DWELLINGS (342)"

Reservation - use "PUBLIC WELFARE (657)", sometimes with "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)" and/or "REAL PROPERTY (423)"

Senawahv (creator of the land, animals, food, plants, and all the Ute people) – use “SPIRITS AND GODS (776)”

Sun dance (also called “thirsty dance)– use "DANCE (535)", possibly with "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)" and "ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)"

Sun dance lodge ( tavu kani – use "RELIGIOUS AND EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURES (346)"

Sweet lodge - use "OUTBUILDINGS (343)", possibly with "PERSONAL HYGIENE (515)" and "MEDICAL THERAPY (757)"

Tribal government - use "TRIBE AND NATION (619)" and "TYPE OF GOVERNMENT (642)"

This culture summary is based on the article, "Ute" by Joel C. Janetski, in the Encyclopedia of World Culture, Vol. 1, North America, 1991. Timothy O’Leary and David Levinson, eds. MacMillan Reference, USA. It was updated by Joel Janetski in September, 2006. Teferi Abate Adem wrote the synopsis and indexing notes in August 2006.

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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