The City of Boulder has begun work to develop a land management plan for its Fort Chambers-Poor Farm property along 63rd Street near Valmont Road. City of Boulder staff extend their gratitude to representatives from Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, the Northern Arapaho and the Northern Cheyenne who came to Boulder in late July to begin providing city Open Space and Mountain Parks staff input and feedback on the development of the plan. Read project updates.
The Fort Chambers-Poor Farm property – which the city acquired in 2018 and is currently closed to the public – has significant historical, agricultural and ecological values because:
From Aug. 28 to Sept. 16, 1864, more than 100 Boulder County men trained and mobilized into Company D of the Third Colorado Cavalry at Fort Chambers along Boulder Creek east of what is now known as Boulder. Company D later participated in the barbaric massacre of peaceful Tsistsistas (Cheyenne) and Hinono’eino’ (Arapaho) at Sand Creek on Nov. 29, 1864. Among those killed in the massacre were women, children, elders and chiefs, including Hinono’ei neecee ("Arapaho Chief") Nowoo3 (“Niwot," "Lefthand") and Tsistasistas Chief White Antelope.
Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribal Nations who consult with the City of Boulder have shared their perspectives on the Sand Creek Massacre in an exhibition at the History Colorado Center: "The Sand Creek Massacre: The Betrayal that Changed Cheyenne and Arapaho People Forever."
The City of Boulder recognizes that the history of Fort Chambers and a marker on the property are local legacies of American-European colonization that violently exiled Indigenous Peoples from their homelands and are a direct, community connection to the Sand Creek Massacre. The city also acknowledges that the participation of community members in the massacre has caused intergenerational trauma for Indigenous Peoples and Nations.
City staff appreciate the opportunity to listen and learn from Tribal Representatives to help our community learn about events that led Boulder-area men to participate in the Sand Creek Massacre and how the legacy of the massacre still affects Arapaho and Cheyenne communities today.
The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and once was the Boulder County Poor Farm, a function it served from 1902 through 1918. The property's main home, of iconic Queen Anne Victorian architecture, remains in original condition and is a distinctive architectural style for rural Boulder County.
The property has long been a working agricultural operation, predominantly used for cattle grazing and hay production. It is considered agricultural land of statewide significance. A subset of the land, about 12 acres, is currently under a lease because it has suitable soils and adequate water for diversified vegetable production.
- The gravel ponds, wetlands and cottonwoods on the property support a diverse suite of species, including fish, ducks, painted turtles, and great-horned owls. It also offers migrating waterfowl a year-round strategic stopover and provides habitat for various songbirds.
In late July, Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribal Leaders and Representatives and city staff:
- Toured the Fort Chambers - Poor Farm property. City Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) staff provided information on the property’s connection to the Sand Creek Massacre – in which more than 100 Boulder-area men participated. During the site visit, city staff also provided background on the property’s other features, including the property’s historic home and outbuildings, as well as the property’s significant scenic, ecological and agricultural resources.
- Outlined future city/Tribal Nation collaboration. City staff and Tribal Representatives discussed creating a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will further outline the process, roles and responsibilities for this Site Management Plan collaboration. We also discussed a schedule for future city/Tribal Nation meetings and how the management plan may take time since Tribal Representatives and Tribal Nations consult with many federal, state, and local agencies across the country. Tribal Representatives expressed their preference to comment and provide feedback on staff-developed management plan concepts.
- Spoke about city open space and the open space purposes. Staff and tribal representatives discussed the Open Space and Mountain Parks system in general, the city charter, and how it has specific open space purposes that guide how OSMP manages city open space. Tribal representatives expressed support for the open space purposes represented on the property.
- Discussed education and interpretation needs on the property. City staff and Tribal Representatives viewed and spoke about the marker on the property and steps needed to either reinterpret it or remove it from the property. Tribal representatives encouraged staff to not solely focus on telling the story of how the fort was utilized but also to communicate events before and after the massacre. Representatives said it is critical that Indigenous perspectives be reflected in how the events and story are told.
OSMP staff recently provided the Open Space Board of Trustees with a written update about this project. Read an update provided to the Boulder City Council. During staff’s initial conversations with Arapaho and Cheyenne Nations – whose people were massacred at Sand Creek on Nov. 29, 1864 – the city seeks to:
- Provide meaningful Tribal Nation input into the development of a plan that will help guide the long-term management of the city’s Fort Chambers / Poor Farm property.
- During the planning process, identify the desired long-term relationship Tribal Nations wish to have with the property.
- Consider how best to interpret the property in relation to the Sand Creek Massacre, including reinterpreting a historical marker on the property to accurately describe Boulder residents’ role in the Sand Creek Massacre.
- Identify opportunities to integrate broad Indigenous history and stories of the Sand Creek Massacre and its intergenerational harm to Tribal Nations into Boulder history, which is dominated by Euro-American histories.
Continued staff conversations with Tribal Nations in Montana, Wyoming and Oklahoma will set the foundation for the property management plan and inform future public engagement opportunities with the Boulder community members, including Indigenous communities and organizations, agricultural and local food operators, local historic preservationists, and individuals and groups interested in natural and recreational resources. This broader community engagement will commence after the core discussions with the tribes have been completed.