The City of Boulder conducts government-to-government consultations with federally recognized American Indian Tribal Nations.

What is Tribal Consultation?

Federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations are sovereign governments recognized under the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, Executive Orders and court decisions.

Tribal consultation is broadly defined as a process of meaningful government-to-government communication and coordination between U.S. government agencies and tribal governments before an agency takes actions or implements decisions (“undertakings”) that may affect tribes or tribal interests. Federal consultation practices have been established as federal government policy in several presidential directives (Clinton, G.W. Bush, Obama, Biden). Numerous states and municipalities have also sought to include input from Tribal Governments when their actions are thought to affect tribal interests.

The City of Boulder respects and honors American Indian Tribal sovereignty and self-determination and conducts government-to-government consultations with federally recognized Tribal Nations. The city follows federal and state consultation guidelines and guidance for consultations with Tribal Nations, including those that share agreements with the city. City consultations with federally recognized American Indian Tribes is also guided by the State of Colorado Tribal Consultation Guide, which was prepared by the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.

City-Tribal consultations are typically closed sessions in order to facilitate government-to-government conversations that may include sensitive topics, such as the location of Native American cultural resources. However, the city recognizes the public interest in consultations with American Indian Tribes and therefore a joint city-tribal statement is typically produced after each consultation and there also may be limited portions of consultations that are open for community members to attend.

Consultation Partners

The City of Boulder invited these American Indian Tribal Nations to participate in a April 2021 consultation:

  • Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma
  • Cheyenne River Sioux
  • Comanche Nation of Oklahoma
  • Eastern Shoshone Tribe
  • Jicarilla Apache Nation
  • Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Northern Arapaho Tribe
  • Northern Cheyenne Tribe
  • Oglala Sioux Tribe
  • Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma
  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe
  • Southern Ute Indian Tribe
  • Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
  • Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation
  • Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

City Consultation History

Consultations resulted in agreements in the late 1990s and early 2000s

The City of Boulder currently has four legal agreements with 13 federally recognized American Indian Tribes. These agreements resulted from formal city-tribal consultations between the late 1990s and the mid-2000s. Consultations initially began because of issues related to the construction of a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) building in the 1990s. These conversations resulted in a 1998 Memorandum of Agreement between the federal government and the tribes. That agreement, among other things, protected part of the property from development and allowed members of federally recognized tribes to conduct ceremonies at the site.

The city joined in these early negotiations and assumed responsibility for overseeing a conservation easement designed to protect the undeveloped portions of the NIST property. After 1998, the city continued to consult with the tribes independently, and later agreements recognized that the tribes and the city had common interests in:

  • Preserving open space and cultural resources on city land.
  • Providing opportunities for ceremonial practices on city open space. Establishing yearly government-to-government consultations when financially feasible
  • Notifying tribes if Native American cultural resources are inadvertently discovered on Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) land.

Recent consultations

Regular consultations between the city and Tribal Nations paused in the mid-to-late 2000s. The city’s adoption of the Indigenous Peoples Day Resolution in 2016 and staff’s desire to re-establish relationships with Tribes who signed previous agreements with the city led the city to host another formal government-to-government consultation with American Indian Tribes in Boulder in March 2019.

The consultation ended with the City of Boulder and Tribal Representatives determining that current agreements need to be updated and establishing a working group to draft agreement updates to be discussed at a March 2020 consultation meeting. The working group also was charged with making a recommendation regarding a potential new name for Settlers Park.

While the working group convened several times during 2019 and worked on a new draft agreement, the City of Boulder had to postpone the scheduled March 2020 consultation because of COVID-19. Throughout 2020, city staff worked to sensitively solicit input for how Tribal Representatives wanted to consult with the city given the challenges Tribal Nations face from COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected Indigenous Peoples.

2021 Consultations

On Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, city staff held an informal conference call with Tribal Representatives to hear their preference for formal government-to-government consultations with the City of Boulder over the next year. City staff and Tribal Nations agreed to conduct an online consultation in April 2021 to discuss:

  • Updates to city/tribal agreements
  • A final renaming recommendation for Settler’s Park, as required by the city’s Indigenous Peoples Day Resolution
  • Land acknowledgements

2021 Statement

The City of Boulder extends its gratitude to 11 federally recognized American Indian Tribes who participated in a formal government-to-government consultation with the city on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The city recognizes Tribal Representatives actively consult with many federal, state, and local agencies across the country. We appreciate their time in speaking with the city and for the opportunity to continue building relationships with Tribal Nations.

During the Wednesday, April 7 consultation, the city and Tribal Representatives continued discussions that began at a March 2019 consultation and were expected to continue at a 2020 consultation, which was postponed because of COVID-19. The city and Tribal Representatives agreed to:

  • Rename Settler’s Park in west Boulder. The city anticipates informing the community about the agreed-upon name change when it submits an application for the formal name change in early May 2021. The city will invite Tribal Representatives to participate in a city/Tribal Nation working group to develop signage and education that commemorates Indigenous Peoples’ connection to the area.
  • Continue progress on revising current city-tribal agreements this year. Once the city and Tribal Representatives reach a consensus on updates, the city plans to present a revised agreement to Tribal Governments for their review and possible acceptance.
  • Meet again during a planned in-person formal consultation in March 2022.

The city also received feedback and guidance on Wednesday to develop a formal land acknowledgment. This effort has several goals, including:

  • Honoring all Indigenous Peoples who have traversed, lived in and stewarded lands in the area since time immemorial.
  • Emphasizing that traditions and oral histories still connect Tribal Nations and Indigenous Peoples with the Boulder area.
  • Acknowledging the harm caused by the colonization of Indigenous lands.
  • Celebrating the generational knowledge and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Building a foundation to take action for Indigenous Peoples now and into the future.
  • Addressing the interests of Indigenous community members and federally recognized American Indian Tribes that consult with the city.
  • Developing a consistent approach for land acknowledgments across the city.

City staff will work with the planned city/Tribal Nation working group to help finalize the city’s planned land acknowledgment. City staff anticipates providing the Boulder City Council an update about its land acknowledgment effort in late summer or early fall 2021.

The city thanks consultants Ernest House, Jr. with the Keystone Policy Center and Jessica Yaquinto with Living Heritage Anthropology for their continuing assistance in helping the city conduct government-to-government consultation with Tribal Nations.

The city knows it has much work ahead of it in listening and addressing matters of importance to Tribal Nations and Indigenous community members. The city again extends its gratitude for the opportunity to continue building relationships with Tribal Nations and for their guidance and partnership in the years to come.

2019 Statement

The City of Boulder is deeply appreciative of the opportunity to listen and learn from 14 American Indian Tribes who participated in a government-to-government consultation with the city on Tuesday, March 19, and Wednesday, March 20. This year’s consultation is a renewed effort to work with Tribal Nations that have signed four Memorandum of Understanding agreements with the city in the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

The City of Boulder thanks participating tribal representatives for this opportunity to re-establish relationships with the Tribes and for allowing the city to share topics that received city and tribal representative support during this 2019 winter consultation:

  • Current agreements need to be updated and that the City of Boulder and Tribal Nations should meet in March 2020 to collaborate on suggested updates.
  • A working group made up of city staff and one representative from each tribal nation should be established to help facilitate frequent consultations regarding agreement updates in advance of the 2020 March meeting. The tribes will attempt to designate representatives by April 20, 2019. There also was interest in inviting other Tribal Nations to participate in this ongoing conversation.  
  • The working group also will be charged with making a recommendation regarding the commemoration and recognition of federally recognized Native American Nations – including a potential new name for Settlers Park with appropriate commemoration and interpretation – which will be decided at the 2020 consultation.

The City of Boulder recognizes and appreciates that tribal representatives will need to have further discussion with their Tribal governments before any changes to the current agreements can occur. Any revised agreements between the City of Boulder and Native American governments will be available to the public once when they’re presented to Boulder City Council members for their approval.

The city would like to thank Holly Norton, the state’s archaeologist, along with Ernest House, Jr. with the Keystone Policy Center and Jessica Yaquinto with Living Heritage Anthropology, for helping the city to conduct this government-to-government consultation. The city also would like to thank community members for attending the public portions of this consultation and showing their support of American Indian Tribes and Indigenous Peoples in our community.

The City of Boulder again thanks Tribal representatives for sharing their insights and wisdom with city elected and appointed leaders and city staff, and the City of Boulder looks forward to continuing consultations and collaboration with federally recognized Native American Nations in the future.

City-Tribal Nation Agreements

The City of Boulder has four agreements with 13 federally recognized American Indian Tribal Nations, which were developed during previous consultations during the late 1990s and the early-to-mid 2000s. Broadly, these agreements recognize tribes and the city had common interests, including:

  • Preserving open space and cultural resources on city land.
  • Providing opportunities for ceremonial practices on city open space.
  • Notifying tribes if Native American cultural resources are inadvertently discovered on Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) land.  

The four agreements the city currently has with American Indian Tribal Nations are:

  • 1999 Memorandum of Understanding-A: The City of Boulder and American Indian Tribes agreed to create a spiritual and moral partnership for the protection of open space.
  • 1999 Memorandum of Understanding-B: The City of Boulder and American Indian Tribes agreed to obtain approval for a city-administered utility easement for an area at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and provide for a tribal monitor during then-proposed, ground-disturbing work. The city also agreed to provide reasonable fire protection services for permitted tribal cultural use of a protected area at NIST during fire bans.
  • 2002 Memorandum of Understanding: The City of Boulder and 13 Native American governments agreed to numerous provisions, which included: ​
    • That Tribal representatives would agree to provide cultural-resource evaluation and advice in support of open space acquisitions.
      • That Tribal representatives and the city agree to ongoing consultation about cultural resources on city Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) land.
      • That the City of Boulder agrees to, subject to annual appropriations, to host an annual consultation with the representatives in Boulder to facilitate an ongoing consultation contemplated by the agreement.
      • That members of the signatory tribes need no prior permission for pedestrian use of OSMP land.
      • That permitted ceremonies on OSMP land requiring fire and/or the building of a temporary structure, such as a sweat lodge or tipi, do require permission from the city and notice of such an event 30 days in advance of it occurring.
      • That bicycle and pedestrian trails, parking lots, plowing or cultivation or any mineral extraction, to the extent of city mineral ownership, on the city's Jewel Mountain property shall be reviewed by the Tribes prior to authorization by the city.
      • That inadvertent discovery of American Indian Resources on OSMP land, including funerary objects and human remains, shall be reported to the Tribes and protected by the city until they can be reviewed by Tribal Nations.