We traveled from one part of the country to another visiting and
trading with each other and other tribes. I call them nomads (traveling
for a purpose) and not nomadic (which indicates traveling aimlessly)
as indicated in the dictionary. Most of the Anthropologist, Historians
and Federal government personnel that worked with Indians used the
term Nomadic to specify that the Indian in North America
traveled aimlessly which is not true.
tree is a directional tree pointing toward a water source
or other location. Several Ute Burial Trees were found on
the La Foret property in the Black Forest North East of Colorado
Springs including two that pointed toward each other which
must have been of some significance. (photo courtesy of Dr.
Native Americans traditionally transferred their culture and
history through oral means as told by the elders. Each year at festivals
and family gatherings, the elders told the stories of their tribe
and the mythological stories associated with their culture. Within
a short time after the arrival of the white settlers and missionaries,
the culture of the Native Americans began to be affected and the
oral stories began to disappear.
The Utes are a people who lived in the mountains of Colorado,
Utah and New Mexico. The traditional hunting grounds extended far
beyond that territory. The Utes do not have a migration story like
other tribes since their recorded history has always been in the
western mountain region. The Ute Nation is composed of several tribal
bands that were loosely affiliated in a tribal confederacy. A principal
leader was chosen when the tribe had dealings with governmental
Important to the Ute Indians were the trail trees and rock art
that guided them on their travels. While many of these trees can
live to be 300 to 600 years old, some are near the end of their
lives. While others, unfortunately have been destroyed by urban
development and vandals. The meaning of these trees and rocks are
not completely known and may never be known since those who know
are all but gone.
The Utes bent trees for directional markers to a location often
of a sacred nature, to mark sites where a person of importance died
or was born, and other special purpose trees. The directional marker
trees are often only bent about 30 degrees off of vertical and then
allowed to go vertical again. Many of these trees point to Pikes
Peak, which is the most sacred site to the Utes. The Utes called
Pikes Peak Tavakav or Sun Mountain.
Some of the trees and rocks are found marking old Indian trails.
Others point to water, shelter, stream crossing and more. The techniques
for bending a tree into a particular shape have, for the most part,
been lost. These living artifacts are a testimony to
the skills and knowledge of the Indian people and their being one
The Utes called them Spirit Trees as they were known to hold
the prayers and then they go to Creator.
courtesy of Dr. James Jefferson)
Ute Burial Trees hold a special meaning to the Utes as the cedar
tree that has spiritual powers used by medicine people.
Clifford Duncan, Ute elder from Fort Duchesne, UT through the
works of Carol Patterson has captured a lot of his work on trees
and rock art. The stories are beginning to come alive as to the
history of the early Utes.
The World Tree and Ute Cosmology are all shown in this panel
that is placed high up on the cliff face. It belongs to the higher
level of knowledge known only to spiritual leaders of the Ute bands.
The information was probably discussed among elders and initiated
members. The images on this panel were not meant to be viewed by
everyone and that is the reason it was not placed down on the valley
floor where the general public could see it. The trail does not
even go by this panel, because of its religious significance.
The Pochteca, Aztec traveling salesman and traders from the
Valley of Mexico, were the most likely source of the birds and other
exotics found in Chaco Canyon. Exotic indicators of distant trade
apart from the macaws are the cocoa beans and chocolate residue
found in a group of cylindrical jars excavated at Chaco. These tropical
birds and chocolate beans were more than 1,200 miles for their source
of origin and must have been carried, like the live Macaws, on the
backs of the long distance traders who walked great distances and
traded widely for easily transportable merchandise.
tree is normal directional tree pointing toward Pikes Peak.
(photo by Sacha Smith - The Southern Ute Drum)
I have been working with many scholars and researchers across
the United States to find the Mystery of the Trees who are studying
what the trees are saying. Many stories are being told and people
working on these mysteries are discovering what the old Tribal Spiritual
Leaders knew and are now trying to tell us. The old storytellers
including myself were told not to tell the secrets of the Native
Americans. I am only guiding them to make sure the wrong story is
not told. But, many times the wrong story leaks out anyway.
New techniques are now being used to help discover the Mysteries
of the Trees. We will be holding a series of workshops and conferences
to tell what has been discovered about the Mysteries of the Trees.
How Pines Were Used
Pine nuts, secured from both long and short needle
pines, were roasted in ashe to kill the bitterness of the raw seed.
courtesy of Dr. James Jefferson)
They were an important aboriginal food source in most of the
west, including the Northwest Plateau home of the Bannocks, Shoshones,
Paiutes, Flatheads, and Nez Perces among others (Walker). In the
Four Corners country of the Southwest, pinon nuts harvested annually
were and area staple food among the Navajos, Utes, and Apaches.
Rich in protein, pine nuts, after roasting, were often ground
or mixed with grease and ground berries. The mix was then formed
into cakes to be stored and used for food throughout the winter.
Cambium, sometimes called inner-bark, is a layer of formative
cells between the wood bark in woody plants which forms new wood
and bark. In pines this is on an annual basis that forms a growth-ring
of wood. It is rich in carbohydrates, mostly sugar, starch, and
celluloses, and contains calcium oxalate a white crystalline
substance found in plant cells classed as an acid salt as well.
Depending upon the trees location and the soil it grows in
it may furnish, besides calories, protein, fat, crude fiber, ash,
and moisture traces minerals, such as phosphorous, magnesium, iron,
Zinc, copper magnesium, aluminum, barium, strontium, boron, and
Cambium was usually eaten by almost all American Indians living
in and around pine forests. The cambium layer and sap of the black
pine are eaten especially in the spring, as is western yellow pine.
For ponderosa, the outer bark is removed from the young twigs and
the cambium is eaten.
Pine moss (Alectoria jubata) a lichen gathered from pine trees
in the mountains. Two kinds were gathered around the first of July.
One dark brown in color and edible; the other, light green in color
and edible. Nutritionally, compared with plain shredded wheat, is
higher in calcium, fat. Fiber. Ash, and calories, but lower in protein,
carbohydrates, phosphorous, and iron.
DOWSING David Johnson
Although I use metal-dowsing rods, the ancestral Native
Americans could have used a variety of dowsing techniques to locate
areas of higher permeability. For centuries dowsing rods have been
made out of forked wood sticks to locate ground water.
During the last forty years I have worked and lived with tribes
in remote regions of the world whose lifestyle still resembles that
of Native Americans before 1492. (Johnsons resume on CD) Many
of these cultures were located in dry regions similar to the southwest.
From time to time I have observed alternate dowsing techniques of
groundwater flowing beneath the surface.
In the lower Rio Grande de Nasca drainage of Peru at Usaca,
residents told my colleagues and I they could hear a waterfall at
night when the laid down to sleep, however the rivers surface
was dry at that time. In that region a fault, which is deeper that
the river valley bottom crossed it. When the subsurface water flowing
down the river valley intersects the deeper fault, it flowed out
of the river and into the deeper fault, thus creating the underground
waterfall the people heard. During the Aja Alto survey my colleagues
and I heard groundwater flowing along the fault we were mapping
even though there was no indication of water, either surface of
subsurface, in the area. (Johnson 2009, Chap 2)
Sacred Landscape. Ceremonial Stone Landscape And Habitationscapes
5 Types of Ute Indian Prayer Trees
1 Burial Trees
2 Medicine Trees
3 Story or Message Trees
4 Trail Marker Trees
5 Ceremonial Trees
The Utes modified trees for navigational, spiritual, burial,
medicinal & educational purposes.