“Chipeta's Ride”


"From mountains covered deep with snow... Where once dwelt Ouray, the king of the land, With Chipeta his queen...." The Utes battle the whites, and disaster threatens. Ouray, striken with Bright's Disease, cannot lead; Chipeta bears his orders for peace


This is one of those places where, for the most part, the folklore is the story. According to Burt, in 1878, one N. C. Meeker decided to forcibly convert the Utes of northern Colorado from hunter-gatherers into a "civilized" people.

What followed was ugly on all sides. Meeker plowed up a Ute racetrack, then called in the Army to defend himself. The troops were warned off by the Utes, but came on anyway, and a battle followed. Chief Ouray (c. 1833-1880) was far away and reportedly not part of the planning. When he heard of the battle, he ordered it stopped, and his wife Chipeta carried the order.

Ouray of course was real, and did indeed work to control Ute uprisings -- and to protect his people's interests. And Nathan Cook Meeker (1817-1879), Indian Agent to the Utes from 1878, did try to impose his ideas on them, and eventually was killed as a result. But history, as Burt admits, doesn't document Chipeta's Ride.

In the Really Strange Speculations department, reading Josephy Wheelan's _Invading Mexico: America's Continental Dream and the Mexican War 1846-1848_ (Carroll & Graf, 2007), pp. 91-92, I observe that major hostilities began when a Mexican force crossed the Rio Grande to try to interfere with American communications. An American scouting force, insufficiently cautious, was chopped to bits, the survivors captured. Their guide, who had refused to ride into the ambush, carried word of the disaster to the American general Zachary Taylor. This guide was named Chipita. I would assume this is coincidence, except that maybe it inspired the name of the heroine in this song. - RBW


  1. Burt, pp. 147-149, "(Chipeta's Ride)" (1 excerpted text, which is unlikely to have had music since it is highly irregular; also a single stanza of another song perhaps about this event)
  2. BI, Burt147


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1951 (Poems of the Old West)
Found in: US