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The Significance of Native American Heritage Month

Category: Boulder Blog

Post Date: Wednesday, November 24, 2021

A hiking path overlooking the City of Boulder

(Photo Credits: Boulder Colorado USA)

Hey Downtown,

As November draws to a close, it is important to understand the significance of Native American Heritage Month and the ongoing effort to learn about Native American history. This month celebrates and gives acknowledgement to many of the indigenous tribes across the nation.

Native American Heritage Month allows us to give acknowledgement to the contributions that the first Americans made to the growth of the United States. It’s crucial to be aware that much of the land we live on originally belonged to indigenous people, and it’s also important to recognize that they are still fighting for recognition. 

It’s important that we respect and acknowledge the land that downtown resides on. According to the Daily Camera, Boulder has been built on land that belongs to the people of the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Ute tribes. The city has some interesting ties to indigenous culture and historical indigenous figures. The most prominent is Chief Niowt. His name means “Left-Hand” and Visit Longmont notes that he spoke multiple languages such as English, Sioux and Cheyenne. He learned English at a young age because his sister, Mahom, married John Posial, who was an English trapper. Colorado Encyclopedia states that Niwot was a prominent leader of the Arapaho tribe in the mid-1800s. According to About Boulder, prospectors came across Arapaho land and Chief Niwot advised them to leave. Chief Niwot was the one who translated and spoke to the prospectors because of his ability to speak multiple languages. Many locals know of the lore that Chief Niwot said about the prospectors, "People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay and their staying will be the undoing the beauty.  This is known as the legendary Curse of Boulder Valley. Needless to say, the prospectors didn’t leave and even threatened the tribe. Chief Niwot attempted to create peace between the prospectors and the Arapaho people, but it was short lived as lives were claimed during a massacre. Eventually Chief Niwot met with Colorado's Territorial Governor John Evans to work on creating a peace agreement.

On June 3, 2021, the City of Boulder renamed a popular trailhead, located at 101 Pearl Street, “The Peoples’ Crossing.” The name was created by a mixture of representatives from several federally recognized American Indian Tribes who worked with the City of Boulder to change the name from ‘Settlers Park’. “The Peoples’ Crossing” came from members of the community who gained guidance from American Indian Tribal Nation representatives who also created Boulder’s Indigenous Peoples Day Resolution.

In addition to renaming the trailhead, more efforts are being made to acknowledge indigenous people. I recommend checking out an article from City Lifestyle Boulder: Celebrating Three Indigenous Artists for Native American Heritage Month.  The piece highlights three indigenous Boulder-based artists! I attended a Zoom panel on Indigenous Peoples’ Day and  heard JayCee, one of the artists interviewed in the piece speak. It was really interesting! I hope you will check out the article to get to know a few local indigenous artists.

I also spent some time exploring Zuni, a store on the Pearl Street Mall that offers authentic and ethically bought pieces - many of which are designed by indigenous artists. They are a family owned business that opened in 1992 and while not Native American owned, they work closely with the artists whose work they sell and were once members of the Indian Arts and Crafts Association (IACA)*. 

*The Indian Arts and Crafts Association was established in 1974. The original IACA founders were Indian artists who came together to preserve indigenous art. Sadly, the IACA closed in 2018 due to a lack of participation and support. However, that doesn’t mean there can’t be appreciation of indigenous art moving forward! 

Zuni offers items such as Zuni Fetish Carvings, Kachina, pottery and more. Their pieces come from members of the Navajo Nation, Zuni Pueblo and the Hopi Tribe. One of the many things that caught my eye in the store were Zuni fetishes which are a physical embodiment of a spirit. According to the Native American Medicine Company, they can be handed down for generations and are meant to assist in any problems one might face. Unlike a carving, a fetish has a specific energy it is meant to carry. If it doesn’t work properly, it’s either because the fetish has been offended or the person who possesses it isn’t pure of heart.

The other item that caught my eye is the Kachina that they sell. According to Legends of America, Kachina are representations or personifications of things in the world such as crops, animals and even rain. In an article by Native American Vault, I learned that Kachina are not to be worshiped, but are highly powerful spirits. During my research, I came across an article written by Britannica stating that Kachina were designed to live with a tribe for 6 months and would only show themselves to the men of the tribe if they were to properly perform a ceremony with Kachina masks and other regalia. Apparently within the figures or dolls, the spirit is not identified by the doll, but by the leather, feathers and fabric on its mask. Zuni offers a wide range of pieces and are worth stopping by to explore and support indigenous artists.

Here are some additional resources to learn more about Native American Heritage Month: 

About National Native American Heritage Month

PBS - Native American History Month

Celebrating Native Americans and the Indigenous community

Native American Rights Fund

Boulder working toward Indigenous land acknowledgments

Indigenous Land Acknowledgment

Native American Heritage Month is important and I hope I have given you some insight on the significance it holds within our community. If any of the information I have gathered is incorrect in any way, please email me at so the problem can be addressed and we can continue to grow and support indigenous people within our community properly.

Until next time,


Mentioned in this Post: Zuni

Tagged:   Boulder

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