Looking Back: Nichols’ friendship with tribe

RBC — Meeker and Rangley pioneer Fred Nichols’ oral history in the Rio Blanco Historical Society’s “This Is What I Remember,” Vol. I recalls the days when the settlers and Indians interacted.
“Someone asked me not too long ago if I had any Indians trade at my store, and I told them yes. In the winter time the White River Utes moved down in here and they’d come and trade with me. I knew nearly all of them. I knew old Chipteta and her brother, McCook. I knew Jim and Bob Colorow. Bob Colorow was a very fine Indian. I never had any trouble with the Indians. I had trouble with white people though, some of them.”
Two of Nichols’ granddaughters, Sally Wilson and Nancy Sullivan, were pleased to see the Northern Ute Tribe return to their native lands this summer for the pow wow and shared their remembrances of their grandfather and his admiration and friendship with many Utes. Nancy remembered a story her granddad told about one of his Ute customers who told him about a fellow Ute, who hadn’t been in the store recently to pay his bill. “He was dead!” is what Nancy recalls “Dad” Nichols saying as he continued to maintain that he never had a Ute customer not make good on his word. Letting them purchase groceries and supplies on credit, he found that he could always count on the bills being paid. “They were poor, but they were honest,” he said more than once. Sally remembers him making a special effort to save all of the unsold produce each day to give to his Ute friends.
“My granddad used to race horses with them” recalls Nancy, when she tells that all of his successful business dealings led to spending time with them away from the store. One prized family possession is an old “baptismal” document belonging to their cousin Velma who knew Chipeta, and had asked for an Indian naming ceremony. Velma became AH-QUIZ-ITS or Chipmunk in Dragon, Utah, on Nov. 15, 1916.
“I always liked the Indians — I can’t say the same for the white man,” Nichols asserted in his oral history interview in Vol. I of the Rio Blanco Historical Society’s “This Is What I Remember.”