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A Brief History of Lake City:
Pre-Settlement, Pre-1874

The Seven Ute Bands

For several centuries prior to Euro-American settlement, the San Juan Mountains were inhabited by the Utes, the indigenous tribe that occupied the Rocky Mountain region for centuries before Anglo-European settlers arrived.  The Utes were a loosely affiliated federation of seven nomadic bands, each claiming a different area of western Colorado and eastern Utah.  The vicinity of present-day Lake City was visited by the Tabeguache (also called Uncompahgre) band of the Utes, who hunted and camped along the Gunnison River and its tributaries.  Southern Hinsdale County was occupied by the Capote band that inhabited the southern San Luis Valley, the Rio Grande Valley, and Rio Grande headwaters.

The nomadic Utes left little permanent evidence of their habitation.  Some Ute trails were developed by settlers as roads.  Wickiups, conical-shaped huts of propped poles covered with branches, are another remnant of these early peoples.  Typically used as summer dwellings, a few wickiups have been documented at Cochetopa Pass midway between Lake City and Saguache near the former Los Pinos Agency.

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Ute Chiefs, detail of a stereoview photograph by William Henry Jackson.  Click on photo for large pop-up view.