The Impact of Immigration on Native American Tribes

One Action 2016 is a year long project happening in Boulder County to use arts and cultural events to highlight immigration and immigrants in this community. Friday February 19th, from 7-9pm at the Louisville Center for the Arts, there will be a performance of Rocks Karma Arrows, which shows how the very first immigrants impacted the original peoples of Boulder County. Part One of Rocks Karma Arrows focuses on the Sand Creek Massacre, Chief Niwot, the founding of Boulder.   That will be followed by a discussion lead by historian Tom Thomas who is the Project Manager of the Sand Creek National Historic Site who will be discussing the impact of immigration on Native American Tribes.

Thomas says the gold rush was the catalyst for the tremendous wave of immigration to Colorado in 1858, when, within 18 months,  the population had grown by an additional 100,000 “all Americans migrating into the gold fields either to mine and prospect or to engage in town building, begin farming, develop small businesses, all the economic development that surrounded a mining boom like that.  The landscape was overrun, game destroyed… the habitat on which the tribes relied on so heavily was significantly impacted.”

Thomas says that about 40,000 square miles of Colorado had been granted to the Arapaho and Cheyenne people under the terms of the treaty of Fort Laramie of 1851 “so they had treaty rights to this land, and those rights were significantly reduced in a subsequent treaty negotiation that occurred in 1861.”  Those tribal lands granted under the Fort Laramie treaty were reduced by about 90% “so they were forced into a very small wedge significantly that was bordered by the Arkansas River on the South and Sand Creek on the north.”

Thomas says that this huge wave of migration into Colorado and the subsequent economic and industrial expansion in the west, from the establishment of trans continental railroads to urban development, couldn’t have happened without this last phase of conquest of the tribes here.

“In a very real way the majority of Americans live the benefits and the tribes continue to endure the consequences.”

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