By Elenie Louvaris
One of the earliest depictions of Auraria showing the Cherry Creek dividing prospectors looking for
gold and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians who used the region as a campsite.
Courtesy of Jerome Smiley, History of Denver, Rebecca Hunt Collection.
Native American's and The Greater Denver Area
While today, the three main tribes associated with the greater Denver area are the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and the Utes, historically the land was inhabited by a much greater variety of native peoples. According to Sarah M. Nelson, in Denver: An Archeological History, pinpointing exactly who was in the greater Denver area is particularly difficult due to the transitory nature of the native groups in the region and a generally sparse archaeological record. Another factor to take into consideration is that as Europeans settled farther west, so did existing native groups.
Picture Group of Arapaho men with Chief Goes-in-Lodge are staged during an early Tim McCoy
film around the 1920s. Courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy Department
Displacement of Native Tribes
As Europeans settled in new territories, they displaced existing native tribes forcing them to move farther westward. These Natives then displaced existing native tribes. Essentially, the westward settlement of Europeans caused a chain reaction in the displacement of indigenous native tribes.
Picture Group of Arapaho men pose with white settlers.
Courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy
Department Natives and Euro-American Relationships
Picture Son, of Little Raven Chief of the Southern
Arapahoes, poses for a photograph in the 1880s. Courtesy of
Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy Department
Greater Denver Area Tribes
Many of the early tribes were offshoots or allies of each other, making it more difficult to differentiate between the tribes. The main groups who occupied the Denver area, however, were the Apaches, Utes, Cheyennes, Comanches, and Arapahoes. At times Native peoples and Euro-Americans coexisted peacefully. Settlers often would marry Indian or Metis women creating mixed nation families. For example, William Rowland, an Auraria resident, married a Southern Cheyenne woman named Sis Frog. Additionally, American settlement on Native lands in the west sometimes led to hostility. This was furthered by institutions such as the Rocky Mountain News, which called Indians savages and uncivilized.
Picture Red Pipe, an Arapaho warrior, wearing traditional clothing
in the late 1800s. Courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western