The Ute–Southern Paiute Connection

The Ute and Southern Paiute Indians are descended from the same group of Numic-speaking hunter-gatherers that began migrating east from southern California around A.D. 1000. Their once-shared language eventually diverged into the modern Ute and Southern Paiute languages. The fact that the two languages are mutually intelligible suggests that the split might have occurred relatively recently—that is, hundreds, rather than thousands, of years ago.

Historically, the two groups shared similar, but not identical, hunter-gatherer lifestyles. The Southern Paiutes were more adapted to the desert environment of Nevada, southern Utah, and northern Arizona, while their Ute cousins' seasonal rounds took them from the canyons of eastern Utah to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and beyond—all the way to the Great Plains, where they adopted selected traits from the Plains Indians.

Only the easternmost reach of traditional Southern Paiute territory extended east of the Colorado River, into the Mesa Verde region. Today, a relatively small number of Southern Paiutes live in the region, many at White Mesa, Utah, which is part of the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation.