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The Utes for AP U.S. History

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

Mar 12

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The Utes are an illustrative example of the Native American Societies before European Contact topic in Period 1 of AP U.S. History. You could reference this example on your AP U.S. History test.



Chief Severo and his family
Chief Severo and his family/public domain


The Ute tribe, whose name means “land of the sun,” has inhabited vast expanses of the Great Basin and the Intermountain West (between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascades/Sierra Nevadas) regions of North America (modern Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona) since around 1000 CE. Their origins trace back to the Uto-Aztecs, who eventually evolved into distinct tribes, including the Utes, Shoshone, Hopi, and Paiute.


The nomadic Utes lived in small family groups. To avoid depleting natural resources, they spent the year traveling in a circular route now known as the Ute Trail. During the fall, men would hunt elk, deer, and antelope while women trapped small animals and gathered wild plants. In the winter, family groups would settle together for additional help preparing resources and for protection from raiders who hadn’t prepared for the long, cold winter. After surviving the winter, larger groups would gather to celebrate the beginning of spring with the Bear Dance.


Leadership within the Ute tribe was often decentralized, with respected elders and skilled hunters assuming leadership roles within their respective family bands. Decisions were made collaboratively, with input from all members valued, fostering a sense of community and cooperation essential for survival in their harsh environment.


The Ute religion was deeply rooted in animism, the belief that all elements of the natural world, including animals, plants, and landscapes, possess spiritual essence. This belief system emphasized the interconnectedness between humans and nature, with spirits inhabiting every aspect of the environment. One of the most prominent ceremonies in Ute religious tradition is the Bear Dance, which symbolizes the renewal of life and the cycle of the seasons. The Bear Dance typically occurs in the spring and is believed to bring blessings for abundant crops, successful hunting, and overall prosperity. During the ceremony, participants wear bear claws or other bear-related regalia and perform elaborate dances accompanied by drumming and chanting. Another significant ritual is the Sun Dance, which is observed during the summer months. The Sun Dance is a communal event involving fasting, prayer, and ceremonial dances. It honors the sun as a powerful and benevolent force and seeks spiritual guidance and blessings for the community. Throughout the year, Ute religious practices also encompassed various other ceremonies, such as vision quests, healing rituals, and rites of passage. These rituals were conducted by spiritual leaders or shamans, who served as intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds.


Trade was an integral aspect of Ute tribal life, facilitating the exchange of goods, resources, and cultural practices with neighboring tribes and communities. Situated in strategic locations along trade routes, the Ute people engaged in extensive trading networks, exchanging items such as hides, furs, pottery, and food. They maintained particularly significant trade relations with Pueblo tribes, with whom they exchanged pottery for food and other essentials.


In the 16th century, the Utes acquired horses from Spanish settlers, revolutionizing their way of life. Horses facilitated travel, hunting, and trade, profoundly impacting Ute culture and society.



Printable Reading Passage on the Utes


The Utes FREE Reading Passage


Do you want to watch a video about the Utes?




Native American Societies Before European Contact

Period 1

AP U.S. History


the Utes

#NativeAmericans #Utes

Cate O'Donnell

3 min read

Mar 12

5

0

0

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