The broad overview below is based on the city’s Indigenous Peoples Day Resolution, the city’s staff land acknowledgment, conversations with Tribal Representatives and American-European histories of the Boulder Valley. The City of Boulder extends its gratitude to Tribal Representatives for the opportunity to learn more and for their ongoing collaboration to include Indigenous perspectives into Boulder history.
- For more than 10,000 years, generations of Indigenous Peoples have lived and thrived on ancestral homelands that Euro-Americans colonized as Boulder. (1)
- Indigenous Peoples in Boulder have, as in all parts of the Americas, endured centuries of cruelty, exploitation and genocide.(2)
- The westward expansion of Euro-American population and culture in the 19th century caused extensive hunger and diseases that devastated Indigenous Peoples’ way of life. American Europeans killed bison herds, burned wood Indigenous Nations need for building, heating and cooking, and brought diseases, like smallpox and cholera that killed thousands of Indigenous Peoples.(3)
- In 1851, Hinono’eino’ (Arapaho) and Tsétsėhéstȧhese (Cheyenne) Peoples and other Indigenous Nations signed the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie with the U.S. government that designated lands in Colorado – including Boulder – as Arapaho and Cheyenne lands.(4)
- In October 1858, Hinono’ei nieces ("Arapaho Chief") Nowoo3 (“Niwot," "Lefthand") and other Hinono’eino’ (“Arapaho”) Peoples told a party of gold-seekers camped in what is now known as Boulder that they could not remain on Indigenous land as defined by the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie.(5) The gold-seekers refused the Hinono’eino’ request to leave.(6)
- After gold was found west of Boulder in January 1859, many of those same gold-seekers helped found the Boulder Town Company on Feb. 10, 1859, in violation of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. (7)
- By the summer of 1859, thousands of gold seekers were in the Boulder area.(8) When gold seekers found mining too difficult, many squatted Indigenous lands – joining other American-Europeans who had claimed Indigenous lands. Their expansive occupation of Indigenous lands soon exiled Indigenous Nations from the Boulder area.
- While a few Arapaho and Cheyenne chiefs signed the Fort Wise Treaty, which “ceded” Indigenous lands in the Boulder area to the U.S. government, Southern Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho Chiefs,(9) including Chief Nowoo3 opposed the treaty.(10) The U.S. government, however, insisted that the treaty – which many historians recognize was the result of likely corrupt translators who twisted the words of Cheyenne and Arapaho Peace chiefs – bound all tribes to a small reservation in southeastern Colorado.(11)
- Exaggerated and false claims of Indigenous violence fanned anti-Indigenous hatred among settlers in the Boulder area(12) and that “a war of [Indigenous] extermination” should be waged, sparing neither sex nor age.(13) In Boulder, those exaggerated and false claims caused "hysteria" among American-Europeans, with "panicked settlers" beginning to dig trenches on [Broadway] and Thirteenth Streets.(14)
We also recognize the direct, local connection Boulder has with the Sand Creek Massacre and the killing of 10 Cheyenne People before the massacre:
- In August 1864, more than 100 Boulder County residents mobilized into Company D of the Third Colorado Cavalry at Fort Chambers, along Boulder Creek east of what is now known as Boulder.(15) Company D included 46 Boulder men(16) and prominent Boulder County residents.(17) The company drilled at Fort Chambers until the 16th of September. (18)
- On Oct. 9, 1864, 22 men of Company D murdered four Cheyenne women, three men, two babies and one boy. (19) A Company D soldier who would later participate in the Sand Creek Massacre criticized the murders and said the view of Company D soldiers “was strongly in opposition to my view of it."(20)
- In September 1864, Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs sought peace. Arapaho and Cheyenne tell us: “Gov. Evans told Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle to bring a peaceful delegation to Camp Weld, the military outpost in Denver… [Gov. Evans and Col. John Chivington] told us if we went to Big Sandy Creek and stayed there, we would be considered peaceful and would be protected by U.S. troops. But Evans and Chivington betrayed us in the worst possible way.”(21)
- The Boulder-area men of Company D participated in the unprovoked, surprise and barbaric massacre that killed 230 peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne Peoples at Sand Creek on Nov. 29, 1864.(22) A map drawn by a survivor of the massacre indicates that Company D may have attacked Nowoo3’s (“Niwot,” “Lefthand”) camp.(23)
- Arapaho and Cheyenne Sand Creek descendants tell us: “Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle made sure the soldiers saw the white flag of surrender and the U.S. flag flying above our camp. Another important Cheyenne chief, White Antelope, pleaded with the soldiers to stop attacking the peaceful camp by singing a journey song. But he was shot. He died underneath the flags Colorado’s Governor Evans said would show that we were peaceful.”(24)
- U.S. accounts from the Sand Creek Massacre indicated Company D men killed at least 25 people(25) and participated in killing of women, children, elders and chiefs.(26)
- The massacre killed 23 Cheyenne and five Arapaho Chiefs – including Chief Nowoo3 – and caused devastating intergenerational harm for Arapaho and Cheyenne Peoples.(27)
- Despite having participated in horrific atrocities, the Third Calvary and Company D received a “heroes’ welcome” and even paraded Arapaho and Cheyenne body parts as victory trophies through Denver.(28)
- Investigations and testimony from whistleblowers like Silas Soule – who was murdered in Denver five months after the Sand Creek Massacre(29) – detailed accounts of horrific barbarity by Third Calvary and Company D soldiers. A Congressional investigation of the Sand Creek Massacre – conducted early 1865 – stated: “For more than two hours, the work of murder and barbarity was continued until more than one hundred dead bodies, three-fourths of them women and children, lay on the plain as evidence of the fiendish malignity and cruelty of the officers who had so sedulously and carefully plotted the massacre and of the soldiers who had so faithfully acted out the spirit of their officers.”(30)
We also recognize that Boulder community members, for generations, passed down historical narratives about Company D members that were inaccurate and glorified their role in the massacre:
- Despite investigations documenting the barbarity of the massacre, the Boulder community valorized those who participated in the massacre. An 1880 history of Boulder – which many histories of the city are based on – stated: “The Boulder men were prompt to do their full share toward punishing [Arapaho/Cheyenne Peoples] into peace; and let it be recorded to their credit evermore.(31)
- Like others in the state, Boulder community members called the horrific atrocities committed at Sand Creek Massacre a “battle” for more than 100 years. Men who participated in the Sand Creek Massacre also continued to call their murder of 10 Cheyenne People on Oct. 9, 1864, a “battle.”(32)
- In the late 1950s, Boulder community members and a descendent of the man who claimed the property where Fort Chambers once stood helped erect a monument to mark the location of the fort, falsely describing what occurred in 1864 as an “Indian Uprising. (33) Recently, Cheyenne and Arapaho Peoples communicated their pain at seeing the Fort Chambers marker and told city staff how the legacy of massacre still affects descendants of Sand Creek survivors today.
- On May 11, 2023, the City of Boulder with support from the Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribal Representatives, removed an inaccurate historical marker that marked the location of Fort Chambers. The marker, below, will be temporarily stored during the site planning process.