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How Ouray Got its Name: Chief Ouray

The town where our Ouray Colorado lodging location sits translates to arrow in the Ute Language. The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is one of the three federally recognized tribes in the Ute nation, spanning from southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and a small portion of Utah. The town was named after Chief Ouray, the son of a Jicarilla Apache father and Tabeguache Ute mother.

 

Born in New Mexico in 1833, Chief Ouray and his brother worked in Raos as indentured servants for a large and powerful landowning Martinez Family. There, Chief Ouray learned much about hierarchy, business, and other valuable skills that would ultimately make him an influential leader.

 

In 1850, Chief Ouray returned to New Mexico, working for other members of the Martinez family before heading to Colorado. He spoke Spanish, Ute, English, and an Apache dialect. 1863 marked the beginning of his relationship with the United States government, working on various treaties, and became a designated treaty negotiator with the Utes.

 

Chief Ouray was known to be an intellectual and skilled Diplomat, avoiding conflict with settlers when possible. Many remember him as a man that tried to maintain peace between the Utes and white settlers.

 

Chief Ouray is remembered in history in a somewhat complicated manner, but the legacy he leaves behind in Ouray is chronicled in the Ute Indian Museum in Montrose, Colorado (about 45 minutes from Ouray Colorado lodging via US-550 N).

 

To read a more comprehensive and detailed history of Chief Ouray, visit the Colorado Encyclopedia online at: https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/ouray.


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