Remembering the Milk Creek Battle

Members of the three Ute tribes and others gathered at the site of the Battle of Milk Creek for a dedication ceremony for the development of the Milk Creek Battlefield Park on Saturday, Sept. 26. The battle took place 136-years ago on September 29, 1879 between the US Army and the White River Utes.
Robert Chapoose, Northern Ute, talks about the Ute Monument he helped design that now sits at the battlefield site.
Ute Mountain Ute tribal member, Terry Knight and Northern ute elder Jonas Grant overlook the Milk Creek Battlefield.
“I feel drawn to this place, I feel this land is apart of all the Utes,” Southern Ute Chairman Clement J. Frost said during the dedication ceremony for Milk Creek Battlefield Park Saturday, Sept. 26 in Milk Creek, Colo.
The Ute Monument is made from shell rock from the Uintah & Ouray Indian Reservation. The monument was erected at the battlefield in 1993.
Southern Ute tribal elder, Kenny Frost (left) leads the Ute members into the park on Saturday, Sept. 26 in Milk Creek, Colo. Pictured left to right: Robert Chapoose, Jonas Grant and Terry Knight.
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum
Sacha Smith | The Southern Ute Drum


One hundred and thirty six years after the Battle of Milk Creek, dozens gathered at the site of the battle Saturday, Sept. 26 for the dedication ceremony of the Milk Creek Battlefield Park, commemorating the history of the event.

White River Utes and U.S Army Cavalrymen both lost lives fighting the nearly weeklong battle in 1879; but arguably the Utes lost more.

After the battle the Utes were forced out of their homeland in western Colorado and moved to the desert in Utah.

“The more you teach and tell the true stories, the more it will benefit future generations … as Native people all we want is the truth,” Ernest House Jr. Executive Director of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs said overlooking the battlefield. “The stories of the Utes are still in the air and mountains.”

The Rio Blanco County Historical Society has been working on the park for over 25 years. Joe Sullivan, 96, has led the development of the memorial park.

“The way the U.S. Government treated the Native Americans is atrocious … but I hope [the park] will be a place both Utes and white people can come to remember their ancestors,” Sullivan said.

Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee Member, Tony Small commended those who have preserved and maintained the land.

“Thank you for keeping the land the way it is,” he said. “It feels like home; it’s a beautiful place.”

Thanks to the work between the Rio Blanco Historical Society and the Ute Indian Tribe of Utah, a Ute Monument was erected in 1993 and stands side-by-side to the U.S. Army Monument.

After the Ute Monument was finished, the U.S. Army Monument was upgraded to match the Ute Monument, Sullivan said.

“The Ute Monument is made by Ute people,” Robert Chapoose, Northern Ute elder said. “We took shell rock from the reservation … we erected this monument.”

Chapoose is an architect and helped with the design of the monument, he said. The use of shell rock from the Uintah & Ouray Reservation was very important to him, he said.

“I hope the tribe will continue to keep up the monument,” Chapoose said.

Southern Ute Indian Tribal Chairman Clement J. Frost was also in attendance for the dedication and said the land holds a lot of history of the Utes.

“The land doesn’t belong to the Indians; the Indians belong to the land … we take pride in our culture we honor the land everyday,” Frost said. “I feel drawn to this place … I feel this land is apart of all the Utes.”

Ute Mountain Ute Council representatives Priscilla Blackhawk-Rentz and DeAnne House also spoke on the beauty of the land.

“It’s humbling being here,” House said. “The land is beautiful, it’s hard to imagine we now live on lands that are barren with just sand and sage brush.”

The park is complete with the three monuments and a gazebo built to hold events like this past weekends.


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