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A land acknowledgment for Indigenous tribes

This month, Asian Avenue Magazine is celebrating Asian Americans in the outdoors. But to properly speak about our relationship to this land, we must first make space to acknowledge that we are on stolen land. Colorado occupies land that belongs to the Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute nations as well as the Pueblo and Shoshone tribes. Indigenous Peoples are the oldest and original caretakers of these mountains.

By Kiana Marsan

Gold Mining, 1859 Photograph by Granger

In 1858, gold was discovered in Colorado. It spurred a rush of 100,000 white settlers to the region. Several years later, they pressured the Cheyenne and Arapahoe nations to enter the Treaty of Fort Wise. It was signed by a small group of people who did not understand what had transpired. They were coerced to cede most of the Front Range and forcibly removed, and this became one of many so-called agreements the government made that normalized colonization.

This violent ethnic cleansing culminated in the Sand Creek Massacre. In 1864, U.S. troops opened fire on a camp located in Eastern Colorado, killing over 150 Native Americans. The dead were primarily women, children, and the elderly. Today, the state has yet to reckon with this history. John Evans—one of the men found culpable for the genocide—has streets, schools, and awards named after him. The University of Denver, which he took part in founding, still retains their offensive ‘Pioneer’ moniker.

Sand Creek Massacre Monument at Kiowa County

From 1884 to 1911, the Southern Ute Boarding School punished Native children for speaking their languages and participating in their cultures. In the 1950s and ‘60s, Native families were forcibly moved from reservations to urban areas as Denver became part of a federal effort to control these populations.

Presently, there are over 50,000 Native American people living in Colorado. The Southern Ute Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe are the only ones federally recognized in the state. The largest tribal group by origin is the Lakota, and the fastest-growing is the Navajo.

Tocabe is an American Indian eatery in Denver with Native and Indigenous cuisine.

Businesses like the Native American Trading Company and Tocabe incorporate the culture into local economies. Events such as the Denver March Powwow and Colorado Indian Market & Southwest Art Fest make known that this community remains an integral and definitive part of our past, present, and futures.

Activism in support of Land Back efforts could build lasting Indigenous sovereignty. An acknowledgment cannot atone for the harm that has been done to Native communities, but this acknowledgment reminds us of whose outdoors we speak of. The AAPI community knows the impact of colonization and as residents of stolen land, we must show up for those whose histories intersect with our own.

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