The Ute (Nuciu) people can be divided into eastern and western groups. The eastern Utes inhabited the high plateaus and Rocky Mountain parks of Colorado and northern New Mexico, and consisted of the Yamparka and Parianuc (White River
Utes), the Taviwac (Uncompahgre Utes), the Wiminuc, Kapota, and Muwac (Southern and Ute Mountain Utes). The western or Utah Utes inhabited the central and eastern two-thirds of the state. Utah Ute bands included the Cumumba or Weber Utes, the Tumpanuwac, Uinta-ats, Pahvant, San Pitch, and Sheberetch (Uintah Utes). The Ute were hunter-gatherers who quickly adopted the horse and buffalo culture of the Plains Indians. They became noted raiders and traded horses between the Spanish Southwest and the northern plains. Utes actively participated in Spanish campaigns against Navajo and Apache raiders, and conducted their own slave trade with the Spanish against the Southern Paiute
. Utes lived in brush wickiups or skin tepees and traveled in extended family units with seasonal band congregations. There was only a general sense of "tribal" identity with the other Ute bands, based on a common language and shared beliefs.
By the year 1700 Navajos began to move into the San Juan River drainage area of Utah in search of pasture for their herds of Spanish sheep and goats. The Navajo (Dine) were recent immigrants to the Southwest--migrant Athabaskan-speaking peoples from the subarctic who arrived sometime between A.D. 1300 and 1400. The Navajo were highly adaptive hunter-gatherers who incorporated domestic livestock and agriculture into their subsistence system. They lived in dispersed extended family units in northern Arizona, New Mexico, and southeastern Utah, dwelling in hogans. While maintaining fair relations with the Spanish and Pueblo peoples, Navajos came under intense pressure from raiding Utes from the 1720s through the 1740s, forcing many to retreat from Utah.