The Ute Indians of Southwestern Colorado

By Helen Sloan Daniels

Reviewed By Sara Rinne

The Ute Indians of Southwestern Colorado is one of the earliest and most comprehensive books about Ute Indian culture ever written. It is a fascinating look inside not only all aspects of the Ute way of life (more on that in a minute), but the book itself has a history all its own.

Originally written in 1941, The Ute Indians of Southwestern Colorado was authored by Helen Sloan Daniels, a Durango archaeologist, anthropologist, and historian. It was intended as part of a larger history project for the Durango Public Library. However, original copies of the books were produced via mimeograph. This meant that Daniels’ original drawings, as well as the typed text, deteriorated over time and became difficult to read. In 2008, Western Reflections Publishing Company based in Lake City, Colorado, edited and restored the text, the original drawings, and published the book so that it could be available to everyone.

Daniels describes in detail Ute creation mythology, aspects of weaponry and dress, as well as ceremonial dances, rituals, and aspects of daily life. With her simple but beautiful drawings of artifacts, the reader gains a deep knowledge of one of our region’s first peoples. Daniels also goes into great detail, both in her research and in interviews and conversations, about the attitudes of white settlers and white culture toward the Utes.

The Ute removal of the 1880s and 1890s is discussed in detail, as is the prevailing attitudes that existed into the 1940s. Daniels, like any good historian, recounts the split in whites’ attitudes toward the Utes without passing judgement of her own. The Ute Indians of Southwestern Colorado is a comprehensive and readable book about a culture that is a part of our collective regional heritage.

The Ute Indians of Southwestern Colorado is published by Western Reflections Publishing Company, and is available at the Ute Indian Museum and Maggie’s Books.