By: Nola Jean Zuniga
Mary May (Reed) Harris was Ute, although her father was white and her mother an Eastern Shoshone she concedered herself Ute. She was born in Green river, Wyoming on Novermber 8, 1858 to James B. Reed and Margaret “Wy-vee-da” Young. She was the oldest of eight children. When she was eight years old her father moved his family to Brown’s Hole, north of Vernal, Utah. than later they moved to Whiterocks on the reservation where her father helped to establish the Uinta Agency.
Mary’s youth was filled with helping her mother, watching over her younger Brothers and Sisters and learning what she would need to know when she became a wife and mother herself. The Ute word for a home is “Kan-ne-ga” when translated into english it means, “a setting or staying place.” Mary’s Kan-ne-ga was alway filled with love. Growing up she was taught many thing’s.
Mary was a young Women when she was sent to attend the Teller Institute in Grand Junction, Colorado and was among the first group of Indians who attended this school. Her Father insisted on her getting an education and to learn the english language better. Mary was not only fluent in english but also the Ute, Northern Paiute and Eastern Shoshone Language’s.
While attending the Teller Institute, Mary met and fell in love with Henry Ernest Harris, the Man who she would marry. Her parents gave their concent for her to wed Henry, who was Northern Paiute from the Pyramid Lake area in Nevada. She and Henry would eventually have eight children, four boys and four girls. They moved to Nevada after finishing their education for a short time, but Mary was so homesick for her family in Utah that Henry told her they would move to Utah and that he would live with her people rather than see her be so sad!
Henry build Mary a “Ken-ne-ga” (Home) on the Reservation where they raised their children. Henry worked on the Reservation for the Government and Tribe for many years. Mary taught her children the ways of the people and the Ute language. She and her family attended all the Native Ceremony’s and actively participated in them. She taught her children to love Mother Earth and to have respect for the four legged, the winged and all the creepy crawleys, who were their brothers.
She taught her Daughters to be good mother’s and her Son’s to be good husband’s. She taught them to have respect and to love the Grandfather, The Creator. She also taught them to be thankful for what was given to them.
Mary lived peacefully on the Reservation her whole life. Her children grew up, got married and had families of their own. Mary loved her people and when, in her old age, she learned from her children that they would on longer be considered Ute’s of the Uinta Band, that whitemen in the east, in a place called Washington D.C. said that she and her family could no longer live life as they knew and grew up into. Mary could not understand why this was happening to her and her family. All she knew was that all would be lost and their life style would never be the same.
Mary’s heart and spirit was broken and at an all time low. She could not understand that her relatives within the Uinta Band would no longer be her relatives and that her own life would be change forever.
No longer could she go into the Uinta Mountains that she loved, to camp, pick Berries, hunt, tan hides, fish. What would happen to her? To her family? Mary was in her old age, she was 102 years old. She had seen and experenced a lot in her life time, but this was something she could not understand nor could she comprehend! She wondered if when her time to walk the “Spirit Road,” would her robe (Body) be permitted to lay in the ground where the blood of her Ancestors was spilled and it grieved her to think about it!
Mary left this world on June 27, 1960 with a broken heart, wondering what would become of Her and Henry’s family. Mary was layed to rest beside her Husband in the Ft. Duchesne Cementary on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation.
Mary’s Family are the Curry’s, Denver’s Murdocks, Secakuku’s Harris’s and one Zuniga.