Boulder on Sunday welcomed about 100 members of the Southern Arapaho from Oklahoma and Northern Arapaho from Wyoming to their ancestral Boulder Valley lands.
"On behalf of the tribe, I want to tell you it feels so good to be home," said Roy Brown, chairman of the Northern Arapaho business Council. "Our hearts and our spirits live here, where our ancestors are."
Boulder Valley was the winter homeland of Chief Left Hand's band of Arapaho until 1859, when miners discovered gold in the foothills. The Arapaho, whose name for themselves is Hinó'no'éí, were pushed out of the area.
"Endure, that's the story of our people," Brown said. "For 150 years, we've endured massacres and murders, broken promises and broken treaties. Now, we not only endure, we thrive."
The Arapaho — including elders, government leaders and youth — spent Sunday sharing their culture and history through presentations and performances at Boulder High School.
The day started with a worship service officiated by Chief Elvin Kenrick, followed by a lunch and an opening ceremony that included the Eagle Drum Circle, a color guard and dancers in Native American regalia.
The event was presented by the Southern and Northern Arapaho tribes and Right Relationship Boulder and supported by Boulder's Human Relations Commission.
"We talked a lot about reconciliation and healing," said Nikhil Mankekar, chairman of Boulder's Human Relations Commission. "The community has really responded. There's a real commitment to continue and bring this back next year."
Billie Sutton, Southern Arapaho legislator, said she wants to see Oklahoma, which counts 39 tribes, follow Boulder's lead.
"In Boulder, you are setting the standard," she said.
In the opening ceremony, Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones said it's necessary to acknowledge that area residents have benefitted from past actions that include broken treaties and human rights violations.
"We must create a new future together," she said. "We look forward to listening and learning from you what this new future should look like."
The city's efforts include discussing the possibility of providing a recently purchased open space property, the 110-acre Boulder County Poor Farm site on 63rd Street, to the Arapaho tribes to use when they travel through Colorado.
Boulder and Denver are among a growing number of cities that observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day. The Boulder City Council unanimously approved Indigenous Peoples Day in August 2016.
Boulder's resolution notes that the Boulder City Town Company was founded in 1859 against the agreement of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. The involvement of David Nichols, a former Boulder County sheriff, and 46 Boulder residents in Colorado's Sand Creek Massacre also was part of the resolution.
Longmont's Ray Ramirez, who works directly with Native American tribes, was among the local experts who helped craft the resolution. He said he was thrilled that their work led to Sunday's event.
"When you listen to all the words spoken today, it means everything," he said. "This has always been home to them."
His wife, Longmont Community and Neighborhood Resources Manager Carmen Ramirez, said the resolution called out the harm done to Native Americans and provided action steps on repairing that harm.
"We can share a meal, share games, share stories," she said.
Sunday's event included demonstrations of Native American dances, a session with youth on "hand games," Arapaho language lessons, a question-and-answer session with Arapaho elders and a market.
"We have a common goal of starting relationships," said Teresa HisChase, an Arapahoe language instructor. "We live with love and respect for all life, all beings."
If you go
What: Boulder's Indigenous Peoples Day events
When/Where: Parade, 8 to 11 a.m. Monday, 15th and Pearl to the Boulder Peace Garden
Open house with the Native American Rights Fund, noon to 4 p.m. Monday, 1506 Broadway
Indigenize Your Eyes exhibit, 3 to 4 p.m Monday, Museum of Boulder, 2205 Broadway
The exhibit also will be on display through Oct. 31 at the Boulder Public Library, 1001 Arapahoe