Native Americans have a rich history in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the Ute consisted of eleven nomadic tribes, spread throughout what is now he states of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. These tribes were allies, but lived separately in different regions of their territory. All of the tribes were nomadic and would travel within their region based on the seasons, in order to find the best areas for hunting and gathering at any given time of the year. As a result, each tribe adapted to living in different environments with slightly different customs and ways of life.
In 1868 the Ute tribes signed a treaty with the United States in which the Ute agreed to give up their territorial claims, and live in a reservation. Two government agencies were established inside the reservation as a home base for the US government agents, who were appointed to ensure that the tribes complied with all the provisions of the treaty. The Ute tribes were divided between the two agencies, one on the White River and the other on the Rio de los Pinos. Each agency included building for a store-room, an agency-building for the residence of the agent, a mill, a school and buildings for a carpenter, farmer, blacksmith, and miller. Today there are three Ute tribes still recognized today, the Northern Ute, the Mountain Ute and the Southern Ute.
Native Americans made many different types of weapons. Some were used to hunt animals, others for fighting, and others served largely ceremonial purposes. Clubs, like the one at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, were only one of these weapons. They are simple weapons usually made of wood with a stone, or other weight, at one end. There have been a number of different styles of clubs used by Native American tribes. The style and construction of these weapons varied over time and certain types were more common in specific areas. While war clubs like this one are no longer used as weapons they are still produced for use at traditional pow wow gatherings throughout the United States, and for sale as craft items.
Beadwork, like seen on our Ute War Club, is a longstanding tradition throughout nearly all Native American groups. The materials used to make beads have changed over time. The earliest beads were handmade from shells, bones and seeds. After European trade goods became available ceramic, glass, and metal beads were quickly adopted to add new colors and textures to the designs. Beadwork is applied to many objects using a variety of different techniques. Common styles of beadwork include: gourd stitch, lazy stitch, applique stitch, and loom woven beadwork. The style used on an object would depend on the shape, size and type of materials the object was made of. Certain beadwork designs were traditional to specific tribal groups or regions but over time the number and variety of designs has greatly expanded as Native American beadworkers continue to develop this art form.
Click the video above to view a demonstration of the traditional Ute bear dance by the Southern Ute tribe.— By Abby Goode. Edited by Kathryn S. McCloud.