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Native American legends form mountain landscapes nationwide

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The Ute Sleeping Mountain, located in Colorado, but readily visible from portions of S.E. Utah, has ancient Native American legends associatd with it. Lynn Arave, Deseret News

The Ute Sleeping Mountain, located in Colorado, but readily visible from portions of S.E. Utah, has ancient Native American legends associatd with it. Lynn Arave, Deseret News

Lynn Arave,, Deseret News

Open spaces, jagged crevices, rugged, rocky terrain and ancient stone structures dominate the forbidding landscape in southeastern Utah. Colorful Native American legends also abound in this "Four Corners" region and one encompasses "Sleeping Ute Mountain."

Although actually located in southwestern Colorado, Ute Mountain, an elongated sliver of rock and dirt, rises to a maximum height of 9,979 feet — more than 4,000 feet above the surrounding terrain.

Sleeping Ute Mountain is readily visible in southeastern Utah, in the Hovenweep National Monument region. In fact, a plaque along the Square Tower Group trail, on the Utah side of Hovenweep, highlights the mountain's legend.

Unlike other "sleeping" mountains (Rainier, Shasta and Mount Hood in the Pacific Northwest), Utah's is not a dormant volcano. The sleeping aspect refers to its silhouetted image of a reclining Ute Indian Chief, resting on his back, with his arms folded. The formation is approximately 12 miles long and 5 miles wide.

In contrast to Utah's Mount Timpanogos' legend of a "sleeping maiden" likeness being found in the mountain's skyline, Sleeping Ute Mountain is not a modern tale. Timp's legend was likely invented by white settlers, but Sleeping Ute Mountain truly centers on an ancient, sacred Native American belief in the mountain and its image.

The small mountain range is located at the north end of the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation in Montezuma County, Colo., and also occupies a portion of Mesa Verde National Park land.

The image of the "sleeping Ute" can also be spotted from both the east and west sides of the mountain range.

The actual Ute legend is that the "Great Warrior God" came to his people to help fight evil. Their tremendous battle caused indents in the landscape. Wounded, but victorious, the Warrior God lay down to rest and fell into a deep sleep and eventually morphed into the mountain seen today.

When fog or clouds settle over the mountain, the Warrior God is said to be changing his blankets for the four seasons. For example, a light green blanket is spring and yellow and red signifies fall.

Also, clouds gathering over the highest peaks means he is pleased with his people and is letting rain clouds slip from his pockets.

Some Utes also believe the Warrior God will one day rise gain to help his people fight against their enemies.

For more information on the mountain or the Indian legend, go to: www.utemountainute.com.

e-mail: lynn@desnews.com

Gazing at Mount Timpanogos on northbound on I-15, near Nephi (or even from certain locations in Heber Valley to the east), it doesn't take a lot of imagination to visualize the shape in the mountain skyline of a woman lying down.

The story goes that an Indian maiden, Utana, committed suicide by throwing herself off the mountain — in Romeo-and-Juliet fashion — after her true love, Red Eagle, died from injuries in a bear attack.

The Great Spirit supposedly melded the heaxrts of the two dead lovers to produce the Great Heart of Timpanogos, a stalactite in Timpanogos Cave.

There's no evidence, however, that Timpanogos' legend is an authentic Native American legend … it was mostly likely invented by Utah Valley resident Eugene Lusk Roberts, who promoted the mountain and started an annual hike to the summit of the mountain.

Besides the Sleeping Ute and Mount Timpanogos silhouettes that people, both modern or anciently, have spotted in mountains, there are at least six other, similar mountain facades in the United States.

Mount Tamalpais, a State Park, north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Certain views of the mountain may resemble a sleeping Indian maiden.

The Abseroka Range, near Livingston, Mont., includes a mountain nicknamed "Sleeping Giant," so named for its shape.

Francinia Notch, on a side of Cannon Mountain in N.H. is said to resemble an "Old man of the Mountain."

There's a "sleeping Indian" mountain, found near Jackson, Wyo.

Hawaii has a "sleeping giant" mountain image too, located between Wailu and Kapaa.

Additionally, there is a "Sleeping Giant" formation visible on the mountain near Thunder Bay, in Ontario, Canada.