Jump to main content

COVID-19: News and Campus Updates | University Resources | COVID-19 County Status | Fall 2021 Plans

Entertainment & Sports

What do these photos tell you about what kind of entertainment and sports Indians enagaged themselves in?

A Squaw Race

Horse racing was a favorite sport of Colorado Indians, as they had always needed fast horses for hunting and raiding. They raced two horses at a time to find out which was faster. Declaring a winner might take several races.

A Squaw Race

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

Their Own Words

"After cattle are killed the Indians all go into horse racing, where there is quite a number of dollars and blankets and moneys exchange hands. They are very earnest in their races."

Source: Dairy of Private Peter Tawse, may 17, 1880, quoted in Jan Petit, Utes: The Mountain People (Boulder: Johnson Books, 1990), p. 120.

A Game Of "Shinny"

Shinny is a form of field hockey. It was an ancient Ute game played by two teams with a ball and curved wooden sticks. To win one team had to get the 4-inch ball over the other team's goal line. The shinny field was about 250 feet long.

A Game Of Shinny

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

A Foot Race

Being a fast runner was important to people who hunted for a living. While buffalo were hunted on horseback, rabbits and other small game were hunted on foot.

A Foot Race

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

Playing Cards

Games of chance were popular among the Ute Indians, especially stick games. These games used sticks that were flat on one side and round on the other. The round sides was marked with different numbers of lines. The players tossed the sticks. The toss with the most number of lines that were turned up won.

Playing Cards

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

Their Own Words

"There are three parts: sticks like cards, counting sticks, and the round rock....The card sticks are held in the hand and dropped on top of the rock. The number of lines showing on the fallen sticks is the count. You take a counter to keep track of your lines. We grew up playing this. All night long we used to play it."

  Source: Sunshine Smith, a Ute elder, quoted in Jan Pettit, Utes: The Mountain People (Boulder: Johnson Books, 1990), p. 96.