Mammoth Hunters & American Indians

The terrain, plants and animals greatly influenced the lives of the first people in Colorado.

Palo-Indians took refuge in sheltered valleys. They camped near streams and springs. They traveled on pathways from plains to mountain valleys to hunt game animals and harvest wild plants.

Evidence of these early Paleo Indians has been found near Wetmore and the Bigelow Divide. The Utes, the mountain people, lived in the high country of Colorado in the Wet Mountains and the Wet Mountain Valley. Extended family groups typically spent summers in the mountains gathering food and hunting. Winters were spent in the lower elevation basins.

Before the Utes got horses from the Spanish, they used dogs to help carry their belongings. Mammoth Hunters & American Indians on the Move

They made a simple device called travois for this purpose. They secured two long poles to a dog, then bundled their belongings and placed them on the poles. The poles would drag on the ground behind the dog.

The Utes continued to use the travois after they had obtained horses. The ruts left by the travois poles and horses hooves created some of the first trails in the Colorado mountains, including your route through Hardscrabble Canyon on Highway 96.

Many nations moved through the plains’ rich grasslands in the areas now occupied by Pueblo, Colorado City and Rye. From the 1400s until 1700, the Apache hunted and tended crops on the plains. The Apache were pushed south in the early 1700s by Comanche, the renowned horsemen of the southern plains.

The Kiowa originally dwelt in the forests of the Yellowstone region of Wyoming and Montana. Pressure from the Sioux and Cheyenne forced them south onto the Colorado plains. Until about 1860, the Kiowa shared the grasslands with other nations, such the Cheyenne and Arapahoe who moved onto the Colorado prairie in early 1800s.

In the 1800s, the lives of the first Coloradoans would change greatly. Starting in 1858, the lure of gold brought many European immigrants to Colorado. As the newcomers took over the American Indians’ territory, conflicts ensued. Many treaties were made the broken. The American Indians were finally forced onto reservations. Today, people belonging to all of these nations live on reservations or in cities and towns across the west.