Native Americans

Before the first European Boulder was the home of the Southern Arapahoe Native Americans. The Arapaho were a Plains tribe of the Algonquian family. They called themselves Inunaina, which translated to “our people”. They once live by the Great Lakes area, but were pushed farther west by other tribes who were fleeing the advancing settlers. After coming west and crossing the Missouri River, the Tribe split, the northern tribe headed north into Wyoming and the Southern tribe came to Colorado.

arapahoe tipi

The Utes, who had been in Colorado for many centuries, attacked the Southern Arapaho expeditions when they tried to settle farther into the Colorado mountain country so the Southern Arapaho settled and made semi permanent camps in the high plains. The Arapaho lived in tipis made from bison hides and would move camps frequently following herds of bison. They had dogs that would pull the tipis around for them when they were on the move. The dogs were later replaced with horses after the European settlers brought them America and they started being available through trades and raids.

In the summer, the Southern Arapahoe spread out more and made hunting expeditions into the nearby mountains and into the Southern and Northern park areas to hunt bison, elk and deer. In the fall, they gathered in the planes and had collective hunt ceremonies. In the winter, they settled down into more permanent camps on the plains.

Chief Niwot, also known as Left Hand, was a leading chief at the time of the arrival of the first settlers. When the first settlers arrived at Settlers Park in 1858, Chief Niwot went to tell them to leave and that they were not welcome. The settlers refused and Niowt, seeing that they were well armed, decided that it would be better to try to keep the peace with them. As the story goes, Chief Niwot uttered these words “People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of its beauty.” And they became known as the curse of Niwot.

Chief Niwot was fluent in English and bartered many peace agreements and worked very hard trying to keep the peace with the new settlers for many years. This was not easy as the flood of settlers grew bigger and bigger each year. In the years to come, many conflicts would arise between drunken miners and cowboys abusing the Native Americans and young and out of control Native Americans raiding and murdering the settlers.

Relations between the Southern Arapaho and the settlers continued to deteriorate. Around the 1860s, the Southern Arapaho were forced onto the Sand Creek Reservation, which was an unlivable piece of land. Many Native Americans were very discontent with the situation, and many young Native Americans continued raids and murders against the settlers.

The settlers started demanding more military action and protection against the Native American raids. A pattern started where the Native Americans would go out on the war path in the mountains in the spring and summer killing and pillaging settlers and in the fall, when the snow was ready to force them out of the mountains, they would go back to the valley and would call for peace talks and live in peace throughout the winter and do it all over again in the spring. After a few years of this, the settlers and the military were becoming fed up.

On November 29, 1864, Colonel Chivington and his army of men attacked the Sand Creek Reservation at dawn, surprising a sleeping village of poorly armed Native Americans. It was a massacre in which estimates say 150-200 Native Americans died, mostly unarmed women and children.

The attack was basically the end of what was left of the traditional Southern Arapaho tribe and system. A few warriors escaped and went on a warpath pillaging and killing any settlers they saw for years. But most of the survivors spent the rest of their lives in poverty and despair on reservations.