Identification. The Ute are an American Indian group located in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. "Ute" is a shortened version of "Eutah," a term with uncertain origins. The name was likely borrowed by the Spanish from Ute neighbors who referred to the Ute as "Yu Tta Ci" (Southern Paiute), "Yota" (Hopi), and "Yu Hta" (Comanche). The meaning of "Utah" is likewise unclear. The Ute name for themselves is "Nu Ci," meaning "person" or "Indian."
Location. At the time of European contact in the 1600s and 1700s, the Ute occupied much of central and eastern Utah and all of western Colorado, as well as minor portions of northwestern New Mexico. For ease of discussion, the Colorado and New Mexico groups are often lumped together as Eastern and those from Utah are labeled Western Ute. Physiographically, this Ute homeland is diverse and includes the eastern fringe of the Great Basin, the northern Colorado Plateau, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and the east slopes of the Rockies and high plains of Colorado. Latitude and longitude of the region's center is approximately 39° N and 109° W.
Demography. In 1880, combined population figures for both Colorado and Utah Ute was some 3,975. By 1983 these numbers had increased modestly to 4,905. Precontact levels were likely considerably higher than these historic figures.
Linguistic Affiliation. The Ute speak Southern Numic, the easternmost of the Numic languages spoken by the majority of the Indians of the Great Basin-Plateau regions of the intermountain west. Numic is a branch of the Uto-Aztekan language family. Other groups speaking Southern Numic are the Southern Paiute and Kawaiisu. Some dialectical differences were present within Southern Numic, but no clear boundaries existed.