Historically, the Utes roamed throughout the Four Corners and Western Colorado in several distinct hunter-gatherer bands. The Southern Ute divisions were the Muache, Capote, and Weeminuche. As a result of the Dawes Act in 1887, and the subsequent Act of 1895, the previously defined Southern Ute reservation lands were broken into two distinct units. Most of the Muache and Capote Utes accepted farming allotments in the eastern portion, which became known as the Southern Ute Indian Reservation with agency headquarters at Ignacio, in La Plata County. The Weeminuche Utes, led by Chief Ignacio, refused to accept allotments and moved to the western portion, which became known as the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation with agency headquarters at Towaoc, in Montezuma County.
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s land is located in southwest Colorado and eastern Utah, and covers 993 square miles. The land is held in trust by the United States Government. The Tribal enrollment in 2002 was 2,012 with the majority of the members living on the reservation in Towaoc, Colorado (Montezuma County), and in White Mesa, Utah. The Tribal census shows the largest percentage of the members are in their early twenties and younger.
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is a major contributor to the regional economy. The Tribe is one of the largest employers in Montezuma County with 1,130 jobs in 2005, in all aspects of tribal government and operations, and at their Ute Mountain Casino and RV Park. The Weeminuche Construction Authority has become one of the most successful and largest construction companies in the Four Corners area. The Colorado Ute Water Settlement Act of 1988 mandated through the building of the Dolores Project and McPhee Reservoir, that drinking and irrigation water be provided to the reservation. This has dramatically expanded farming and ranching operations. Other tribal resources include income from oil and gas wells, and tribal enterprises that revolve around tourism such as the Tribe’s Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park, Casino, and pottery factory.