Cottontail Tames Wood, Water, and Rock

Background for Teachers

Appreciation is given to the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation for sharing this story with the students of Utah. This is a seasonal story, which means the story should only be told in the winter months. Please be honor their request and use this lesson plan after the first frost and before spring arrives.  

The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation's ancestral lands extend through much of the Great Basin encompassing Utah, Colorado, and parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming. The Utes were among the first Native American tribes to acquire and embrace the horse and its use. This forged a new way of life and made them powerful and prosperous. The horse allowed for greater success in hunting big game. Traditionally the Ute were primarily hunters and gatherers moving with the seasons but with the horse they were able to travel long distances in search of bison and other valuable goods. Trading with other tribes became more acessible and made them a formidable adversary.  The horse also helped to transport heavy loads between camps. Horses often were adorned for parades and social gathering with beautiful beaded regalia. In the late 1800's three Ute bands were forced from the lands they called home to a reservation near Rosevelt, Utah in the Northeast corner of the state. This was a painful transition for the Ute people and they worked to keep many horses. Today the Ute continue to be proud of their relationship with the horse.

The Unitah, Uncompahgre, Whiteriver bands now comprise the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The reservation is the second-largest Indian reservation in the United States and covers over 4.5 million acres. The Navajo Nation has the largest land base followed by the Ute Indian Tribe and each have reservation lands within the borders of Utah. As a sovereign nation, the Ute Indian Tribe is governed by a business council. Today they operate businesses, raise stock and have oil and gas leases. 

Be familiar with the Ute tale Cottontail Tames Wood, Water and Rock, the theme of the story, purpose of traditional Native American tales, and how traditional storytellers use them not only for entertainment, but also to teach lessons about life, nature and culture. The resource titled, Native American Storytelling gives a summary that can be used to pick main points to teach to students.

Student Background Knowledge

It would be helpful for students to know that many cultures and peoples are a part of Utah and their contributions range from dress, foods, music and so on. Also students should know that pre-settlement, Indigeous people lived, danced and traveled on the land students call home. It would be appropriate to find out the whose ancestral lands the school is on and help students acknowledge it through a land acknowledgement.