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Celebrating the Past, Present and Future of Native Americans in Colorado and Beyond

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

November is National Native American Heritage Month, and November 25 is Native American Heritage Day. In the United States, we have observed National Native American Heritage Month since 1990 when President George H. W. Bush made the declaration. Celebrations and exhibits will be held throughout the country and Colorado.

Group of Native Americans
Remembering the Sand Creek Massacre

President Biden’s National Native American Heritage Month Proclamation

President Biden wrote that the purpose of the proclamation is to “celebrate Indigenous peoples past and present and rededicate ourselves to honoring Tribal sovereignty, promoting Tribal self-determination, and upholding the United States’ solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations.”

The United States has a history of not adhering to the treaties it signed with Native Americans, which resulted in the dispossession of their ancestral lands. Policies of assimilation and termination were used to decimate Native Americans and their ways of life. Despite this painful history, Indigenous peoples, their governments and their communities have persevered and contributed to their communities and country.

Biden Administration Takes Active Role in Supporting Tribal Nations

President Biden and his administration are taking actions to begin to rectify the country’s past injustices. They actively consult with Tribal leaders about treaty rights and policies that affect Native peoples. They are creating new jobs and bolstering infrastructure, delivering high-speed internet, building safer roads and bridges, modernizing sanitation systems, providing clean drinking water, transitioning to clean energy and lowering health care costs. Biden appointed Secretary Deb Haaland to be the first-ever Native American Cabinet Secretary, and more than 50 Native Americans are represented across the executive branch.

Governor Polis’ National Native American Month Proclamation

November 29, 2022 is the 158th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, where U.S. soldiers killed more than 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho villagers – mostly elderly men, women and children – approximately 180 miles southeast of Denver. Governor Polis has committed Colorado to the ongoing work of increasing public awareness and education regarding this dark chapter in Colorado's history.

Governor Polis signed a proclamation honoring the contributions of the American Indian people, encouraging its citizens to actively seek knowledge about the history and heritage of the American Indians in this state – past, present and future. He acknowledges the original inhabitants of North America, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, as well as the other 46 contemporary tribal nations with historic ties to Colorado and all other American Indian and Alaska Native residents throughout our state.

A Stronger Focus on Teaching about Colorado’s Native Tribes

Governor Polis points out that flags of the three Ute Nations and associated descriptive plaques are located prominently in the Colorado State Capitol building, serving as the starting point for visitor tours to recognize the Ute Nations and raise public awareness of the Ute people. To reach young people, Colorado collaborated with the Ute Tribes to create the Ute Resource Guide for 4th-grade educators. This guide gives Colorado students a more complete account of Colorado's history and allows them to learn about Ute culture, history and contemporary life.

National Native American Month Events

Exhibitions, events, publications, podcasts, photos and more are available on History Colorado’s Native American History and Heritage page.

November Programs at the Ute Indian Museum | Montrose, CO

Tickets ($0–25) and info: Ute Indian Museum. Special events include free family film screenings of “Smoke Signals” and “More Than Fry Bread” (PG-13 / PG, Sunday, Nov. 21, 1 p.m.), Twilight Shavano Petroglyph Tours on every Sunday of the month (6:30–8:30 p.m.), an evening of campfire stories (Sunday, Nov. 21, 6 p.m.), and classes to create beaded loom bracelets (Sunday, Nov. 21, 11 a.m.) and porcupine quill earrings (Sunday, Nov. 28, 11 a.m.).

New Exhibition - The Sand Creek Massacre: The Betrayal that Changed Cheyenne and Arapaho People Forever | Denver, CO

History Colorado Center | Opens November 19, 10:30 a.m.

This exhibit recounts the deadliest day in Colorado history—Nov. 29, 1864—when U.S. troops brutally attacked a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho people who were promised military protection.

Unsilenced: Indigenous Enslavement in Southern Colorado by Jetsonorama at the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center incorporates historic photos of Indigenous captives and census documents from 1865 to bring to light the realities of Indigenous slavery in the American West.



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