Daily Camera (Boulder)

In­dige­nous Peo­ples Day, a call to hon­esty and ac­tion

- By Paula Palmer Society · Boulder · Laramie · Cheyenne · Colorado · Oklahoma · University of Oklahoma · Wyoming · Montana · Anne of Great Britain · Anne of Austria · Louisville · Boulder City · Butte · John R. Evans · Chivington, Colorado · Arapaho, OK

It’s been four years since the Boul­der City Coun­cil unan­i­mously ap­proved the In­dige­nous Peo­ples Day res­o­lu­tion, es­tab­lish­ing the sec­ond Mon­day in October as In­dige­nous Peo­ples Day. This year, we can par­tic­i­pate in a wide va­ri­ety of on­line events Oct. 9-12 (search City of Boul­der In­dige­nous Peo­ples Day for the com­plete list).

The In­dige­nous Peo­ples Day res­o­lu­tion starts with hon­est re­flec­tion on Boul­der’s his­tory, stat­ing that “Boul­der has ben­e­fited di­rectly from In­dian re­moval poli­cies that vi­o­lated hu­man rights, broke gov­ern­ment treaties and forced Ara­paho peo­ple from their home­land.”

It moves to­ward ac­tion, di­rect­ing “the City Man­ager to work with City de­part­ments, Na­tive Amer­i­cans and his­to­ri­ans to cor­rect omis­sions of the Na­tive Amer­i­can pres­ence in pub­lic places, re­sources and cul­tural pro­gram­ming.”

We have a unique op­por­tu­nity to take this ac­tion now, at a time when peo­ple through­out the coun­try are re­think­ing how we should me­mo­ri­al­ize our his­tory. Whose voices, sto­ries, and im­ages have been erased or den­i­grated? Whose sto­ries have been san­i­tized and mythol­o­gized?

In our pub­lic spa­ces, how can we reckon with the ter­ri­ble in­jus­tices and lega­cies of slav­ery, geno­cide, col­o­niza­tion, and racism? How can we face our his­tory to­gether with a com­mon com­mit­ment to truth, re­spect, and jus­tice?

Here’s our op­por­tu­nity: In 2018, the city pur­chased a 110-acre prop­erty on 63rd Street be­tween Val­mont and Jay roads. This land lies just north of Val­mont Butte, a sa­cred site to many in­dige­nous na­tions. For more than 14,000 years, their an­ces­tors hunted, traded, held cer­e­monies, lived and died on this land.

Euro-amer­i­can set­tlers came to Boul­der Val­ley as min­ers in 1858. At that time, Chief Nawath (Left Hand)’s band of Ara­paho peo­ple were liv­ing here in their ter­ri­tory, rec­og­nized in the Fort Laramie treaty of 1851.

The min­ers vi­o­lated this treaty and forced the Ara­paho out of the Boul­der Val­ley. Set­tlers built sod stock­ades an­tic­i­pat­ing re­sis­tance from na­tive peo­ple.

One such stock­ade was Fort Cham­bers, built on the 63rd Street land that the city pur­chased two years ago.

What hap­pened at Fort Cham­bers? In 1864, the ter­ri­to­rial gov­er­nor, John Evans, re­cruited set­tlers as “In­dian fight­ers” specif­i­cally to kill na­tive peo­ple and fur­ther white set­tle­ment. Boul­der area re­cruits mus­tered into ser­vice, drilled, and trained at Fort Cham­bers.

Col. John Chiv­ing­ton led Boul­der’s reg­i­ment to Sand Creek, where they car­ried out the grisly mas­sacre of more than 230 Cheyenne and Ara­paho peo­ple — mostly women, chil­dren, and el­ders — who were peace­fully en­camped un­der pro­tec­tion of the Union flag. Chief Nawath died of his in­juries there. A con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­ter­mined it to be a mil­i­tary mas­sacre.

The Cheyenne and Ara­paho peo­ple who sur­vived the Sand Creek Mas­sacre were forced out of Colorado to reser­va­tions in Ok­la­homa, Wy­oming, and Mon­tana, where most of their tribal mem­bers live to­day.

This is how Boul­der “has ben­e­fited di­rectly from In­dian re­moval poli­cies that vi­o­lated hu­man rights, broke gov­ern­ment treaties and forced Ara­paho peo­ple from their home­land,” in the words of the city res­o­lu­tion. So how can the city now “cor­rect omis­sions of the Na­tive Amer­i­can pres­ence in pub­lic places, re­sources and cul­tural pro­gram­ming”?

One im­me­di­ate way is by pro­tect­ing and de­vel­op­ing the Fort Cham­bers site as a place to teach the his­tory and pres­ence of in­dige­nous peo­ples in the Boul­der Val­ley, to honor the 1851 Treaty, and to wel­come the Ara­paho peo­ple back to their home­land.

South­ern and North­ern Ara­paho lead­ers have of­fered to guide and di­rect this process to en­sure its au­then­tic­ity, in­tegrity, and ad­her­ence to tribal pro­to­cols. They have shared their vi­sions of spa­ces for re­mem­brance, re­flec­tion, and ed­u­ca­tion, as well as spa­ces for camping and lodg­ing.

The Fort Cham­bers site, in­clud­ing the large beau­ti­ful Queen Anne-style house, open land, and cot­ton­wood groves, pro­vides am­ple and ap­pro­pri­ate spa­ces for all these pos­si­bil­i­ties. It re­mains for the city’s Open Space and Moun­tain Parks depart­ment to com­mit to ded­i­cat­ing the Fort Cham­bers site for this unique pur­pose.

This is an ur­gent and timely call for hon­esty and ac­tion. A lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion, Right Re­la­tion­ship Boul­der, is urg­ing the city to pro­tect and de­velop the Fort Cham­bers site un­der the di­rec­tion and guid­ance of the Ara­paho and Cheyenne peo­ple. To­gether, let’s transform a site of racist vi­o­lence into a place of re­mem­brance, learn­ing, di­a­logue, repa­ra­tions, and right re­la­tion­ship.

Paula Palmer co-founded Right Re­la­tion­ship Boul­der and co-di­rects To­ward Right Re­la­tion­ship with Na­tive Peo­ples, a pro­gram of Friends Peace Teams. She lives in Louisville.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA