Ouray c. 18301880

Mathew Brady Studio (active 184494)
Albumen silver print, 1868

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

This three-part photograph shows eight members of the 1868 Ute delegation to Washington, D.C., standing alongside nine government officials. Because of growing complaints about settlers trespassing on traditional Ute lands, this group came together ostensibly to establish a definable Ute reservation in Colorado. Fourth from the right is Ouray, the individual whom U.S. authorities regarded as the tribe’s principal spokesman.

Fluent in English and Spanish, Ouray was best able to communicate with federal officials. His close association with Kit Carson—who traveled with the delegation but is not pictured here—and his reputation for being cooperative also made him the person with whom negotiators most wanted to deal.

Although he was an important leader, Ouray had no such negotiating authority. Nevertheless, a treaty was signed during the Utes’ visit that secured a relatively generous land apportionment. For the remainder of his life, Ouray struggled, often unsuccessfully, to have U.S. authorities honor the terms of this treaty.