Ute people once inhabited this entire region, from the San Luis Valley west into Utah, and, after a series of forced relocations and treaties from the 1860s to 1930s, control only this small strip of land in the dry high plains of the Colorado Plateau. The tribal land encompasses several archaeological sites, including petroglyphs and cliff dwellings, but can only be accessed through half- and full-day guided tours (arranged through the tribal park), which include lots of rough and dusty driving over back roads.
The relationship between Utes and the federal government is one of conflict and ongoing tension. The Ute tribe won their first rights for potable water on this arid reservation in 1988.
The tribe operates the Ute Mountain Casino, Hotel & Resort, near Sleeping Ute Mountain.