Published on December 2, 2010 by John
Chipeta or White Singing Bird (1843/4–1924), was a Native American woman, and the second wife of Chief Ouray of the Uncompahgre Ute tribe. She was born a Kiowa Apache but raised by the Utes in what is now Conejos, Colorado. She was the advisor and confidant of her husband, and following his death in 1880, continued as a leader of her people who respected her as a wise woman.
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Through her diplomacy, she continually strove to seek peace with the white settlers in Colorado. She often represented the Utes as a delegate to lobby the US congress. In early 1880, she was almost lynched by an angry mob of white people in Alamosa, Colorado when she and her husband along with nine other Utes attempted to board a train for Washington DC to negotiate a treaty regarding reservation resettlement, and to testify before a Congressional inquiry into the Meeker Massacre. Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz welcomed her as one of the delegation, not as just Chief Ouray’s wife.
Years later, Chipeta also met with President William Taft, and she was highly-respected by both Utes and white people.
Chipeta, which is White Singing Bird in the Ute language, was born into the Kiowa Apache tribe in about 1843 or 1844. She was adopted and raised by the Uncompahgre Utes of Colorado. In 1859, she married as his second wife, Chief Ouray of the Uncompahgres. She acted as his advisor and confidant, often sitting beside him at tribal council meetings. She was described as “beautiful”, and she played the guitar and sang in three languages. She was also renowned for her exquisite beadwork.
Although Chipeta never bore children, she adopted four and raised them as her own.
Chipeta sought to live peacefully with the white settlers in Colorado. Following the Meeker Massacre in September 1879 at the White River Agency, where 11 white men were killed by Utes, and several white women and children were taken captive, she helped negotiate for their rescue, which was carried out by General Charles Adams of the Colorado Militia. One of the captives was Josephine Meeker, daughter of Indian agent Nathan Meeker. On January 7, 1880, Chipeta and her husband led a delegation of Utes to Washington DC to negotiate a treaty regarding reservation resettlement and testify before a congressional inquiry. As Chipeta and the others attempted to board a train at Alamosa, they were almost lynched by an angry mob of white people, who blamed them for the massacre, although the Uncompahgres had not been involved.
On March 7, 1880 Chipeta entered the Capitol Building and was welcomed by Secretary of Interior Carl Schurz as a delegate. She testified before a Congressional inquiry into the Meeker Massacre. At the hearing, she took the witness stand and answered, through an interpreter, the 10 questions put to her.
The Utes ratified a treaty with the US government; however, the latter did not permit the tribe to stay in Colorado. Following the Ute Removal Act of 1880, which Congress passed, Chipeta and the Utes were forcibly moved to the Uintah Indian Reservation in Utah, where Chief Ouray died that same year.
After the death of Chief Ouray, Chipeta continued as a leader of the Utes and was highly respected as a wise woman. She was often mentioned in the press.
Chipeta died at the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in 1924. The following year, she and her husband were reburied in Montrose, Colorado.