Uncompahgre Valley Chapter Dedicates
Bronze Plaque at Ute Indian Museum
Written by: Erin Smith Berge (Mrs.
then regent and public relations chair
Uncompahgre Valley Chapter NSDAR
A new bronze plaque commemorating the
1924 land acquisition effort by the
National Society Daughters of the
American Revolution Uncompahgre Chapter
for the establishment of the Ute Indian
Museum and park was dedicated on
Saturday, November 21, 2009.
The dedication took place in front of a
concrete tepee, which rests over a
natural spring, and will replace a
painted inscription inside the teepee’s
walls with a new solid bronze marker
permanently mounted to a large boulder.
The local DAR chapter, which was
re-chartered in 1993 and re-named
“Uncompahgre Valley Chapter,” felt the
original marker should be replaced due
to its age and concern that it could be
potentially painted over. The idea of a
more permanent fixture appealed to the
members who desired to preserve this
historic land for future generations and
forever honor the Ute Chief Ouray and
his peace-loving wife, Chipeta. Several
chapter members spent four years gaining
approval for the new bronze marker from
the national office in Washington D.C.
The inscription on the commemorative
In Memory of Chipeta, Wife of Chief
Ouray. Teepee erected over Ouray and
Chipeta’s Spring 1924 by the DAR.
Permanent Marker placed by
Uncompaghre Valley Chapter, NSDAR
In 1945, the land purchased by the
original DAR chapter was deeded to the
Colorado Historical Society. This was
the beginning of the Ute Indian Museum,
which now serves as a central cultural
base for Ute Indians throughout the
southwest and attracts thousands of
tourists each year.
The plaque dedication was one part of a
day-long National American Indian
Heritage Month celebration, which
included several other museum events and
presentations sponsored by the Ute
Colorado State Regent Charlotte Hubbs,
Honorary State Regent Linda Sandlin, and
Colorado State Historian Chris Ruth were
in attendance. Mrs. Sandlin and Jane
Murphy, the chapter’s current regent,
were instrumental in assisting the local
DAR chapter in obtaining national DAR
permission to replace the memorial.
Shirley Sutphen, DAR past chapter regent
and genealogy research specialist, C.J.
Brafford, Ute Indian Museum Director,
and Linda Smith Sandlin, Honorary State
Regent, provided dedication messages.
Roland McCook, second great grandson of
Chipeta, President of Friends of the Ute
Indian Museum, and Vice-Chairman of the
Smithsonian Institution’s Native
American Repatriation Review Committee,
gave a special presentation.
In Mrs. Sutphen’s address, she said, “We
owe these ladies [of the original
chapter] dearly for their foresight,
their fortitude, and their commitment.”
She explained that when the local
chapter was re-chartered in 1993,
members began to study the projects of
the original chapter, and it soon became
apparent this one particular project
felt unfinished and should be completed
in proper fashion.
“While we truly appreciate the work of
those who upgrade and paint this tepee,
we feared that the inside
acknowledgement could some day be
covered over when painting was done to
the inside of the tepee,” she said.
During the gold rush in the San Juan
Mountains in the late 1800s, Chief Ouray
and his wife, Chipeta traveled to
Washington, D.C. to testify at land
hearings. Treaty negotiations stalled
after Chief Ouray died in August of 1880
and by September of 1881 the Ute Indians
had lost the battle and were sent to the
desert of Eastern Utah, where Chipeta
died in 1924.
The following year, her body was removed
and returned to Montrose, where the
local chapter of the DAR purchased 8.65
acres from Ouray’s original homestead
and erected a tomb for “Queen” Chipeta.
This is now the site of the Ute Indian
Museum and memorial park. Chipeta’s
brother John McCook returned to Montrose
with her body and at his death was laid
to rest beside her, his grave marked by
a white cross.