Sunday, October 3, 2010

Chief Walker - Ute

Chief Walker
In 1808, Colorow Ignacio Ouray Walkara was born along the Spanish Fork River in what is now Utah.   He later became known also as Chief Wakara or Chief Walker, chief of the Utes. 


In his youth, Walker became skilled in hunting and raiding.  He also learned Spanish and English which enabled him to deal with mountain men and settlers that came into the area.  He set up an organization to raid travelers through the area and became very wealthy through this raiding.

In the 1820s, he established relations with the fur traders that came into the area.  This was profitable to both his people and the fur traders.  In 1829 the Old Spanish Trail was opened and he stopped travelers through the trail and demanded tribute to be able to pass through the trail.


Chief Walker also dealt in slavery.  He raided Indians from the Paiute tribe and took the young men as prisoners.  Then he traded them to the Spanish so that they could be used by the Spanish to work in mines.  This was very profitable for Chief Walker

Relationships with the Mormons

In the 1840s, Chief Walker met with the Mormon President, Brigham Young, and gave an invitation to have Mormon settlers come to the area of what is now Sanpete County, Utah, to settle there.  About 255 members of the Church went down to the area to settle there.  At first the relationship between them was amicable.  The Ute Indians under Chief Walker helped the settlers to survive the harsh conditions of the area.

Becomes a Mormon

On March 13, 1850, Chief Walker was baptized as a member of the Mormon Church.  As a member of the Church he was able to help settle disputes and difficulties that came up between members of the Church and members of the Ute Indian Tribe.

Slave Trade Problems

In 1853 a law was passed in the Utah Territory that prohibited the slave trade.  This caused a rift between Walkara and the settlers.  Mormon leaders moved to disrupt the Mexican trade in horses and people, thereby undermining Wakara's wealth and power. Wakara grew to distrust the white settlers as they encroached on Ute hunting lands and began resisting that encroachment.

The Walker War

In July 1853, while Wakara and his followers were camped on Spring Creek near Springville, a altercation over trade took place in which a Mormon settler killed a Ute and wounded two others. Wakara demanded the killer be brought before him. His request was refused. This incident precipitated the Walker (Wakara) War.
The war was mainly a series of raids led by Wakara on the Mormon settlements. Utes attacked Fort Payson; the Mormon Nauvoo Legion responded. During the next ten months fewer than twenty whites were killed; many more Utes died, including nine "shot down without one minute's notice," after they came into a Mormon camp looking for protection and bread.
Walker Decides on Peace
The war, however, was futile. Brigham Young sent out word to "fort up," and to curtail the trading of arms and ammunition to the Utes. And not all Utes were united in the controversy. In March 1854 Young sent major E.A. Bedell, the federal Indian agent, to meet with Wakara and other Ute leaders. Bedell was to inquire if they would treat with Young for the sale of their land. During the meeting with Bedell, Wakara stated that "he would prefer not to sell if he could live peacefully with the white people which he was anxious to do."
In May, Young and several other Mormon Church leaders and their families went on a tour of southern Mormon settlements. Presents were sent to Wakara and arrangements made for him and other Ute leaders to meet Young and his party at Chicken Creek. The issue of Mormon occupation of Ute lands was not settled; however, Wakara agreed to peace. The treaty was never formalized by federal government action, but Wakara kept his word.


He died of pneumonia on 28 January 1855. The story of his body being buried with his goods, including horses and young Indian slaves.

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