Why Go to Milk Creek?

CAITLIN WALKER PHOTO

White men called it Milk Creek. The Utes called it the Little River. The Little River was the northern boundary of the Ute Reservation that everyone recognized. The actual boundary was the Rio Blanco and Moffit County lines. While marked on a map, the boundary was not written on the ground. Everyone knew that to cross Milk Creek from the north was to cross into the Ute Nation.

The site of the Milk Creek Battle is a peaceful and beautiful place. Visitors often see deer, elk and antelope there. Sandhill cranes and occasional Whooping cranes sing and dance along the banks of the creek. It is hard to imagine that this place was the site of the longest battle of the American Indian Wars. Five days, 142 hours, from September 29 to October 5, 1879. Your imagination is guided by the signs and maps at the site that give you the opportunity to relive what happened here.

Utes come here to see the place that comes alive in the stories of their ancestors. They educate their children here. They honor those who gave their lives in defense of their homes. This is the site of the first monument erected on United States soil to the warriors of another nation. There are remembrances here of times past that live only in memories. There is also hope here that hate and anger will dissolve into understanding that fear of different cultures no longer matters. For the Utes spirits live here.

Whites come here to remember and honor the soldiers of both sides who fought and died here. They have erected a place where all can come to sit and tell their stories. Traditionally gatherings occur during the Fourth of July weekend as well as the weekend closest to September 29.We seek the value of history in stories told by Utes and Whites alike so that mistakes may never be repeated.

When you come here you can hear the spirits teach lessons for young and old alike. You can feel the respect of what is lost and gained in this place of history.


The iron gates at the entrance of the Milk Creek Battlefield Park were designed and created by Meeker native Mark Scritchfield and tell the story of the Milk Creek Battle.

Northern Utes and their ancestors inhabited mountainous Colorado and Utah for centuries. White settlers in the Colorado Territory brought competition and conflict for the land. The Ute Reservation and Agency at White River were established by the treaty of 1868. Settlers violated the treaty encroaching onto Ute lands. Utes and local traders previously engaged in a friendly “buckskin” economy through trading posts along the Yampa and Little Snake Rivers.
In 1878, White River Indian Agent Nathan Meeker imposed a mandatory lifestyle conversion upon the traditionally nomadic Utes to agriculture which was resented and resisted. Finally, Meeker ordered the plowing of the Ute horse racing track which resulted in a quarrel that put fear into Nathan Meeker. When Meeker requested military assistance, Major T.T. Thornburgh and troops were dispatched to aid Meeker, and crossed Milk Creek onto reservation land, where they were engaged by the Utes in a fierce battle September 29th – October 5th 1879. Thornburgh, many soldiers and Utes were slain. Concurrently, at the Indian Agency, Utes attacked and killed Meeker and all the male employees.

A military cantonment was subsequently established in the present site of downtown Meeker. By 1883, congress ordered the eviction of all Utes from their beloved homeland onto reservations in Eastern Utah and Southern Colorado where they remain today. When the U.S. Cavalry received orders to leave, the buildings were sold and the town of Meeker began its own chapter of history.

To commemorate the last major battle engagement with a Native American Tribe and the United States Army, a memorial park has been built in honor of all those who lost their lives in the Battle of Milk Creek in 1879. The memorial is located on County Road 15, approximately 17 miles northeast of Meeker, and attracts heritage tourists from throughout the world as an historic destination.