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MEEKER | Tuesday, Sept. 29 will mark the 141st anniversary of the “Meeker Incident” (https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/meeker-incident).
That sad day in early autumn was the culmination of more than a decade of rising tensions between the Utes and the federal government after six Ute tribes signed a treaty in 1868 ceding their tribal lands on the Front Range to the ever-encroaching white settlers moving West and relegating the Utes to a reservation in Western Colorado. The federal government established two Indian Agencies, one near present-day Meeker and one in southern Colorado. For the next decade, treaty promises made were broken by the government as food and supplies failed to arrive on the reservation.
NEW MUSEUM HOURS:
10 A.M. TO 4 P.M. MON. THROUGH SAT., 12 TO 4 P.M. SUN.
In light of COVID-19, private tours can be arranged by appointment during non-public hours.
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Government’s policy toward the Native Americans was to “assimilate” the indigenous people into white customs and culture, a task often attempted by Christian missionaries who began to be assigned as Indian Agents. Nathan Meeker, a devout Christian who wanted to start a utopian Christian society, was the perfect fit for the White River Agency. Appointed by President Rutherford Hayes in 1878, Meeker set out in early 1879. By the end of September he and 10 of his men were dead, Meeker’s wife and daughters were being held captive, and a five-day standoff at nearby Milk Creek would end on Oct. 5, 1879, with the loss of life of 14 U.S. troops, three Army teamsters and 23 Ute warriors.
The “Meeker Massacre” — so-termed by newspapers across the state — became a catalyst for public pressure that eventually led to the White River Ute tribe being driven across the state line into Utah.
A monument at the site of the White River Agency can be found just west of the junction of Highways 13 and 64. The Milk Creek Battlefield Park, with monuments dedicated to the lives lost on both sides of the battle, and interpretive signs that tell the story of the incident, is located 18 miles northeast of Meeker on County Road 15.
The Rio Blanco County Historical Society will hold its quarterly meeting on Sunday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. in the courtyard between the White River Museum and the Garrison. Bring your own complete picnic for yourself and your family. Entertainment will be provided and the museum will be open to guests.
The Rio Blanco County Historical Society board of directors will hold its monthly meeting prior to the picnic at the Old West Heritage Culture Center, starting at 1 p.m.
Special to the Herald Times