Published on March 11, 2013 by Carol
With the possible exception of the Ghost Dance outbreak of the Sioux in 1890, the massacre was probably the most violent expression of Indian resentment toward the reservation system. Occurring in what is now Rio Blanca County, Colorado, at the White River Agency, the Ute Indians were fed up with with Nathan C. Meeker, the Indian Agent, and his brand of “management.”
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The White River Agency was founded in 1873 for several bands of Utes, who had agreed in a treaty to settle on a reservation there. Five years later Nathan C. Meeker, founder of the city of Greeley, assumed the duties of Indian agent. Resisting his undiplomatic and stubborn efforts to make them farm, raise stock, discontinue their pony racing and hunting forays, and send their children to school, as well as resenting settler encroachment on their reservation and Indian Bureau mismanagement, the nomadic Utes revolted. Assaulted by a subchief during a petty quarrel, Meeker called for troops. On September 29, 1879, before they arrived, the Indians attacked the agency, burned the buildings, and killed Meeker and nine of his employees. Meeker’s wife, daughter, and another girl were held as captives for 23 days. After the massacre, relief columns from Forts Fred Steele and D. A. Russell, Wyoming, defeated the Utes in the Battle of Milk Creek, Colorado, and ended the uprising.
The site, just off Colorado Highway 64, about three miles west of Meeker, is indicated by a wooden marker on the south side of the highway, but is actually located in a privately owned meadow on the north side of the White River. A few traces of building foundations reveal the location of the Indian agency. A monument indicates the spot where Meeker died.