Native History: Colorado Territory Created Amidst Gold Rush
Ten years later, the 1861 Treaty of Fort Wise reduced the massive land allotted to the Cheyenne and Arapaho to a barren reservation in southeastern Colorado. Many of the tribes’ leaders had refused to sign that treaty, but according to Convery, any tribes that ignored it were deemed enemies of the United States. The refusal to relocate may have contributed to Colonel John Chivington’s justification to be mired in the innocent blood of Black Kettle’s Band at the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.
“A lot of us were able to survive Sand Creek,” William C’Hair, historian for the Northern Arapaho, said. “Many were unarmed, they thought they were under protection of the United States. The government took that land away, the land they set up in the Laramie Treaty, and in 1861 they illegally made it Colorado. That was a nation-to-nation treaty, and they didn’t honor it.”
The transcontinental railroad was a major factor in the gold rush in California and then at Pike’s Peak, C’Hair said, adding, “Each time the government needed more land they made another treaty, until the tribes ended up with nothing. They were never given a reservation. It was all illegal and contrary to the constitutional convention.”
The Arapaho website states that the Treaty of 1868 left the Northern Arapaho without a land base, and they were placed with the Shoshone in west central Wyoming, on the Wind River Reservation.
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