Old West Lifestyle & Stories

Colorow and His People

ColorowThis story is about an Indian chief who used intimidation and psychological warfare, more than warfare to keep the whites out of his land.
Colorow was a 300-pound surly leader of a band of Northern Ute. His weight was the result of his love for biscuits covered in syrup, which he regularly got by intimidating settler housewives in the Denver area.
But Colorow wasn’t always that size. As a boy he was a Comanche captured by the Ute. However, because of his skills in battle and his leadership qualities, he was made a chief. Although Colorow never really declared war with the whites, he was a persistent thorn in their sides. In 1876 the Ute owned 32 million acres in western Colorado, and Colorow and his people made sure they kept it by threatening and intimidating any miners or settlers who entered the area.
In 1878 a new Indian agent arrived in town. Agent Nathan Meeker’s objective was to transform the Ute into farmers. At the same time Colorado elected a governor on the platform that “the Utes must go.” It was only a matter of time before the sparks lit the gunpowder. And it happened when Meeker, fearing an uprising…because he cut the Ute’s rations to a bare starvation point…called in troops. Colorow ambushed the troops, killing 13, and wounding 43. At the same time another group attacked Meeker’s family, and killed all of them. A truce was arranged. And the Ute who killed the Meekers were punished, but Colorow’s attack was considered an engagement of war.
Again in 1887 a skirmish broke out. As with the one before, it was needless. This one ended when both sides ran out of ammunition.
Finally, on December 11, 1888, Colorow died. It has been estimated that Colorow’s persistent psychological intimidation of any white entering the Ute lands probably delayed the settling of the central Rocky Mountains by at least a decade.

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