Elizabeth (Curry) Bumgarner


A Woman of Courage, Roll #30

On the cold night of January 25, 1918 in Randlette Utah, beautiful Indian girl was born to Della Ella (Harris) Curry and Oran Franklin Curry. Oran Curry at the time was a Tribal police officer and Della was a housewife. They gave her the name of "Elizabeth Alice Curry.” (Although a lot of people call her Alice her true name is "Elise" after her fathers sister Elise Pawonnie.)

Elizabeth Bumgarner
Elizabeth (Curry)
Bumgarner, Roll #30

She was a beautiful baby with cold black hair and dark skin being the Daughter of Native American parents. She was the third child born with two more to come.

Elizabeth or "Liz" as everyone called her and spent her childhood between Whiterocks, Ft. Duchesne, and Altamont. She loved teasing her younger brother Richard and hated reading the cartoons in the paper to him. She attended Sherman Indian boarding school in California, along with a long list of Native American from the basin.

When she returned she met a handsome Cherokee and Choctaw Indian boy who had came here from Porum, Oklahoma to work on the C.C. Camps in Uinta Canyon and Coyote Basin. He was an average size man with beautiful black wavy hair and hazel eyes, also know as "Choctaw eyes." His name was, Samuel W. Bumgarner Jr. but everyone called him "Sam." They met at one of the many baseball games that were held at fort Duchesne and the surrounding area.

They were married in price, Utah. They were blessed with five children, the oldest being: Elizabeth Ruth, who passed on with phenomena at about six months old, then Samuel Reginald who was better know as "Reggie," the third was, Oranna Malcene (Malcene was Sams mothers name,) Oranna was called either "Ran" or "skin". Then came Craig Walker, nicknamed "little Joe"," then their baby, Elizabeth Marleen, called "Maley." That made up the Bumgarner family.

Times were rough back in the 40’s. WW II was going on and Sam was in the United States Marine’s and Liz was home pregnant with oranna and taking care of Reggie. When Sam returned home after the war, he went to work as property clerk at fort Duchesne and Liz and Sam lived in one of the government houses around the "circle" in fort Duchesne. About this time, Liz and Sam decided to try and obtain a piece of ground and build a combination food store and lunch counter right in Ft. Duchesne, this was in the middle fifties. They were able to get the land and the store was built, with living quarters in back. They gave the store the name: "Ute trading post." About this time termination of Indian tribes was hitting the reservations like a bolt of lighting. The Ute Indian tribe was one of the tribes on the list to be terminated.

Elizabeth Bumgarner
Pencil Sketch of the 1951,
Ute Tribal Business Committee

Liz was a strong voice with the members of her band “the Uinta.” In the early 1950's Liz was elected to represent the Uinta's on the Ute Tribal Business Committee where She was a strong defender of her band. After Termination hit the reservation, She was elected to the first board of directors of the Affiliated Ute Citizens “A.U.C.” that was established to try and work for the division of assets between the full blood and mixed-blood groups. The AUC board sat up office at the old hospital in fort Duchesne, which was located at the top of the hill to the west of Ft. Duchesne. She served on the board with, Preston Allen, Elmer Hackford, Lula (Harris) Murdock, and Bill Reed. Their first meeting was held on June 7, 1956. Sitting on the affiliated Ute board of Directors and trying to help run the store was a tiring job for Liz. The board was in a constant battle with the superintendent, BIA Officials, and john Boyden, who was representing both the full blood Utes and the affiliated Utes Citizens. There was much pressure put on these five directors, they were under constant pressure. The mixed bloods were to be terminated and the full blood Utes were to follow in ten years. A division of assets was to be prepared and there were many arguments that took place. There were many protests by the board of directors on all the assets that were to be divided, and underhanded situations that was occurring that was taking its toll on Liz such as the meeting on May 4,1955 at the council hall in fort Duchesne.

The following is taken from parker Nielsons book: "The Dispossessed"

A few days later, on May 4, 1955, Preston Allen was seated in the long council hall at Fort Duchesne, listening intently as "Liz Bumgarner" rose to read to the general council meeting a statement She and other Uinta’s had prepared:

My Indian people and Indian friends, both Mixed-Blood and full-Bloods: I hereby move in this general meeting of the members of the Ute tribe that the services of Francis McKinley and Rex Curry, as and from this date, an from henceforth, be terminated and that each of them be released as employees of the Ute tribe in any manner, Form or capacity. In plain words, I hereby move that Francis McKinley and Rex Curry be fired and that none of them be hired or placed on the payroll of the Ute tribe."

Preston Allen hoped that this forceful joint resolution would correct the problems, because Bennett had urged them at community meetings to "suggest changes if they felt that there were changes to be made and to "become more active in trying to work with their Officials, with their leaders and committeemen, so that a program which would meet the needs of everybody could be shaped up." Bennett was urging them to be more active in supporting the Uncompahgre plan that he and McKinley were pushing for and in opposing the recommendations of the planning board; but surely that could decide for them what they would support. With Rex curry's sister joining in the opposition, it would be impossible to ignore the resolution because Bennett was present at the meeting" (note: Bennett was superintendent and BIA program Office during this time period)

Mr. Francis McKinley, Rex curry and others have made several trips to Washington, and it was through representations made by Mr. McKinley and Mr. Curry that this unfair, incompetent program was imposed upon the Indians." "It was from Rex Curry and Francis McKinley that Senator Watkins obtained information from which he wrote the "Ute bill" and Advised the United States Senate that the Ute Indian tribe was ready for the Whiteman’s way of life."

Francis McKinley and Rex Curry should have known and must have known that these so-called agreements were hastily entered into without adequate study and deliberation.

Mr. Curry, Mr. McKinley, and all other representatives of the Ute tribe were either incompetent and unreliable at the time of the so-called hasty "agreements" were entered into, or they are dishonest, incompetent, unreliable, and insincere at this time. "Un-Quote"

Liz was living under a lot of pressure. With her brother Rex Curry working for the Ute Indian tribe and She being on the Mixed-Blood Affiliated Ute Board of directors. She could see what was happening to her and her people, She could see if this so called termination went through that it would only be the start of a lifetime of hell for Her and her people. She knew that her mother and father were getting old, what would they do for medical benefits? She had a younger daughter that was diagnosed with terminal kidney disease. The experiment that the government wanted was slowly working its way into the mixed blood uinta's lives and there was nothing she could do to stop it.

By about 1960 or 1961 the new congress was becoming more aware of the Indian ways of life.

According to another passage in parker Nielsons book...

“Quote” Termination was quietly abandoned as congressional policy in 1958 and was officially ended by the Kennedy administration in 1960. The Menominee’s of Wisconsin and the Klamath’s of Oregon secured amendments relieving them of the harmful effects of termination. During the week of January 18, 1960, a "delegation from the Ute Indian Tribe went to Washington D.C. to seek a reversal of the plan to terminate the full bloods. In 1964 the ten-year period allotted to prepare for termination would end. The BIA quietly "abandoned plans to terminate the full blood Utes," presumably at Boyden’s request, "without further legislation." Nothing was done to change the termination program for the mixed bloods.

Preston Allen asked if relief could be obtained for the mixed blood Uinta’s. Boyden seemed unwilling to help, so Preston sent a telegram to Fred A. Seaton, Secretary of the Interior.

"We...Are hereby protesting any action taken by Ute Indian tribe at this time, regarding any amendments to {the termination law} without the {AUCU} having been consulted as this law also pertains to us. We believe that if the Ute Indian tribe is to have time on their long-range plan extended that we the mixed blood group should be granted an equal period of time also before the "Termination proclamation is issued." “Unquote”

In the meantime Liz and Sam obtained a 20-acre allotment on the corner of highway 40 as you turn to go to Ft. Duchesne. They had their store moved from the circle in Ft. Duchesne to this land, where gas pumps were added. Some repairs were done to the store. The store and land was in the minor children’s names. The words "Liz & Sam’s" was painted on the roof of the store.

Liz obtained land in Strawberry, which she had bid on during the division of assets and obtained the title and a land patent from the United States in her name. Termination was getting close to being completed and Liz’s youngest daughter Marleen was getting sicker by the day from the kidney disease. Liz was forced to enter into an agreement with a non-member on the lands in strawberry in order to pay for her daughter’s doctor bills.

Liz and Sam started having marital problems during this time period. Liz left Sam and took her three children and moved into a little house in Roosevelt, Utah. Sam left the store and went back to his home state of Oklahoma. The store was closed and foreclosed on by local bank, with the three children loosing their investment. Liz's baby aughter died of kidney failure at the age of 9. Oranna married at the age of 17. Craig went to live with Liz's mother and father, Grandpa and Grandma Curry.

Liz could not deal with the tragedies that termination brought upon her and her people; she started to drink heavily because she could not stand to see the suffering and dishonesty that was sweeping the reservation like a wildfire. Everyone was being forced to selling what little he or she had in order to survive. Lands were being lost, the people were being swindled out of their Ute Distribution Stock, shares of Grazing units were being sold, and there was no medical or dental care for any of the terminated 490. There was nothing left. Her pride was gone, her honor was gone, and the land in Strawberry and Ft. Duchesne was gone. Her family was gone!

Elizabeth Bumgarner
Liz Bumgarner
as a young girl.

This once beautiful black haired, brown eyed, Proud Native American Indian Girl was now an alcoholic and was married to a guy that blacked her eyes, broke her Arms and broke her leg. She had nothing. They had taken everything, her heart and spirit was broken, she had no will to live, and she could not survive in a Whiteman’s world that had been forced upon her.

Liz was found on a cold winter morning, much like the winter morning when she was born, in a wrecked car that she had traded her Ute distribution stocks for.The car had flown more than 100 feet in the air and landed on its nose at the intersection of highway 40 and Lapoint road. Laying with her head on the floor mats of the car and a piece of broken beer bottle embedded in the top of her head, with a cast on the right leg, she was Dead at the age of 45.

"Liz’s spirit lives on." as long as there is a breath in any of this family, her work will continue. To end the bondage that has left the terminated Uinta People living like prisons in a jail without a key. That door is about to be opened!