A Native History of Colorado Springs


Long before the gold rush settlement of Colorado City, and before General Palmer arrivied with his vision of a “Little London” for Colorado Springs, this area of Colorado was home to the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Apache peoples.  


The Ute say "we have always lived here," the tribe's oral traditions speak to their creation occuring at Garden of the Gods.  Garden of the Gods is a centuries old gathering place for the Ute and other tribes. Indigenous artifacts dating up to 3,500 years ago found in this area, the Ute's lack of migration history, and the historical fact that Ute are considered indigenous to Colorado, lend truth to the Ute's oral history. 


The Ute name for Pikes Peak is Tava Tava is the first mountain along the Front Range to have the sun shine on it at dawn and Tava is situated in what is known to the Ute people as, “The Shining Mountains.” The Ute spent their summers there as nomadic hunter-gatherers.  They would then travel via Ute Pass to visit the hot springs where they "made offerings to the spirits for good health and good hunting." El Paso (Spanish for “the pass”) County was named for the Ute Pass Trail.   


From the base of Tava they would begin a journey eastward to hunt buffalo while often gathering in a sacred land now known as the Black Forest. The Black Forest sits at an elevation of almost 8000 feet and overlooks the prairie; so it was a perfect place for the Ute to gather for pre-hunt ceremonies.  In fact, there is still evidence in the form of centuries old Culturally Modified Trees, that verify the Ute’s Black Forest presence.




Ute Indian Camp, Garden of the Gods, Shan Kive, 1913 | Library of Congress

A procession of Native Americans (Ute) on horseback ride the Ute Pass Trail, El Paso County, Colorado, between Manitou Springs and Cascade, by Fountain Creek. They wear headdresses and traditional clothing for the dedication of the ancestral route which follows the Colorado Rocky Mountain Front Range into the mountains.

Native American (Ute) men participate in a Moon or Round Dance at the Garden of the Gods, El Paso County, Colorado. The men wear moccasins, leggings, breechcloths, and feather headdresses. Some wear beaded shirts or vests. Spectators sit and stand nearby.

The Ute Pass Trail originated just below the springs of Manitou, Colorado, through Ute Pass and into the White River country of Utah. Starting in 1860, the mineral rushes to Colorado resulted in large settler migrations that began the first major threat to the Ute way of life. These Ute men pose on horseback as part of the marking ceremony for the Ute Pass Trail on August 29,1912.

Ute Sacred Circle Ceremony

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