Native Americans of Colorado


Join Active Minds as we tell the stories of the original inhabitants of Colorado. From Mesa Verde to the high plains, we will trace the civilizations of the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Pueblo and other tribes as we seek to understand Colorado’s Native American history and legacy.

Key Lecture Points

  • At one point, Native Americans were the population of Colorado. However, illness, inter-tribal warfare, most importantly, conflict with US settlers and the US government in the 19th Century eventually led to forced settlement treaties that drove most Native Americans out of Colorado. Today, the Colorado Native American population is just 1.2%, just slightly above the national population of 1%.
  • The history of Native Americans is central to the history of the state of Colorado, including the foundation of Denver over 150 years ago. By understanding this history, we can understand much more about how the area was founded, including why so many of our local counties, parks, neighborhoods, and towns are named after Native American tribes.
  • From a Colorado perspective, the Sand Creek Massacre has come to epitomize the brutality of the treatment of Native Americans in the early stages of US settlement of this state.
  • In the present day, Native Americans of Colorado (and the country) are more widely accepted and celebrated than in years past. The cultural heritage of the various tribes of Colorado (from the ancient Anasazi ruins of Mesa Verde to the modern Pow-Wow) is one of the key elements of the history Colorado. That said, Colorado Native Americans are also struggling to maintain their rich heritage.

Exploration Questions

  • Who do you think held the rights to the land, the early Native Americans or the settlers? Was violence on either side justified as a means to an end?
  • It has been nearly 150 years since the Sand Creek Massacre. Do you believe that the United States has any obligations to the Native American Tribes for this and other incidents? Explain your answer.
  • How has the portrayal of Native Americans changed in your lifetime?

Reflective Questions

  • What are your impressions of Native American culture in Colorado?
  • Do you recall portrayals of Native Americans in movies and television?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • Nies, Judith. Native American History. Ballantine Books, 1996. 432 pages. Native American History is a breakthrough reference guide, the first book of its kind to recognize and explore the rich, unfolding experiences of the indigenous American peoples as they evolved against a global backdrop.
    Click here to order
  • Hirschfelder, Arlene, Wright, Beverly. Native Americans: A History in Pictures. DK Publishing, 2000. 192 pages. A photographic history of the Native American experience.
    Click here to order