Elders from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes from Concho, Oklahoma visited the City and County of Broomfield (CCOB) to highlight the rich cultural heritage of Native Americans and the importance of strong relationships between communities. During the visit, Cheyenne and Arapaho elders, members of CCOB’s government and local community leaders took part in a diverse range of activities with the purpose of creating a meaningful dialogue around history and identity.
The visiting elders were hosted by Confluence, the Broomfield-centered, citizen-led effort born out of The Refuge, to re-examine local, state and U.S. history and seek to build meaningful connections between Native and non-Native people in our area and beyond.
Highlights of the visit included the Broomfield’s first-ever proclamation to designate November as Native American Heritage Month and a soil exchange ceremony.
The proclamation is intended to honor the heritage, history, and contributions of Native American communities within the city, as well as the long history of indigenous stewardship of the land upon which Broomfield now sits.
The soil exchange ceremony, held on the grounds of the Brunner Farmhouse, symbolically represented the growing connections between the communities of Broomfield and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, who still consider the treaty-recognized land of Broomfield and the Front Range of Colorado to be "home." This ceremony featured speeches by Mayor Guyleen Castriotta and others and an exchange of jars of brown and red soil from Broomfield and Oklahoma. The soil jar gifted to Broomfield from the tribal elders will become part of Broomfield History’s permanent collection. Representatives also attended tours of Broomfield Open Space with members of the Broomfield Open Space and Trails team and learned more about the more recent history and natural landscapes of the community.
Last year, a delegation from Broomfield visited traditional Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal lands in Oklahoma and was warmly welcomed. The Broomfield delegation were given a tour of important sites in Oklahoma, such as boarding schools, gravesites, the Washita massacre site and the Tribes’ large bison herd.
Both visits have emphasized the importance of cultural exchange, have strengthened relationships and fostered hope for establishing an official Sister Cities relationship between the two communities.
Two members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho delegation who recently visited Broomfield were among the leaders of the effort to rename the most prominent 14er in the Denver Metro Area as "Mount Blue Sky," a change that became official on Sept. 19, 2023. The mountain had been named for Colorado territorial Gov. John Evans, who was forced to resign following the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, after U.S. soldiers from the 1st and 3rd Colorado Cavalry attacked the peaceful camps of about 750 Cheyenne and Arapaho people in southeastern Colorado Territory. More than 230 people were killed that day, more than half of them women and children. The mountain's new name carries special tribal meaning: the Arapaho people are known as the “Blue Sky People,” and the Cheyenne people “have an annual ceremony marking the renewal of life called ‘Blue Sky,’ ” according to the petition submitted by the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes and the Wilderness Society, a nonprofit conservation organization.
"I'm encouraged at how well the visit went. We shared meals, laughs, serious conversations and we got to know each other better. That's a great foundation for the work we have ahead of us," said Marrton Dormish, a facilitator of the Confluence group. "I think it's really important that we Broomfield residents begin to grapple with the tension embodied in what I call 'the obvious geography of our lives' — we live here on the Front Range and the Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples, who lived here for many generations, do not. They were forcibly removed. So we want to learn and partner and chart a better path with our Cheyenne and Arapaho friends and with Broomfield residents who are Indigenous people, as well."
Another exciting part of the visit to Broomfield was the collection and recording of oral histories and stories from the delegates. This initiative could potentially tie into the new Broomfield Out Loud project, creating a more inclusive historical record of the area.
For those interested in learning more about the relationships between Native and non-Native people in Broomfield and beyond or about the Confluence and Sister Cities effort, contact Marrton Dormish at firstname.lastname@example.org. Confluence holds its meetings on the last Wednesday of each month, 6:30-8 p.m. Residents are encouraged to participate in the various events and discussions to celebrate Native American Heritage Month and promote understanding and unity within the community. Visit The Refuge website for more information on these events or contact Marrton Dormish.
The Broomfield Arts and History team has also partnered with History Colorado to be a regional resource site for the Ute Knowledge Kit, an interactive curriculum intended for students grades 1 through 6. Visit the Ute Knowledge History Kit website for more information about this resource.