Rocky Mountain National Park is going back to its roots, expanding its representation of Native Americans with the help of indigenous-focused University of Colorado groups and tribal representatives.

CU students and faculty from the Center of the American West and the Center for Native American Indigenous Studies met with park officials and tribal representatives in Estes Park this fall to work on a plan for more robust communication of indigenous people's lives in Rocky Mountain National Park.

"We now have open lines of communication and willingness to make changes on the part of the park service," said Max Bear, director of the Culture and Heritage Program and the Tribal Historic Preservation Office for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma, in a CU online post.

The workshop allowed for tribal representatives to share what they felt was important to convey to park visitors, said Brooke Neely, research fellow at CAW.

Tribal members from Wyoming and Oklahoma were able to attend the workshop, while members from Utah, Colorado and Montana tribes have upcoming meetings with park officials and CU participants.

"This workshop provided the right synergy and collaboration between the tribes, CU Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park to focus on how to convey the park's tribal histories in a more engaging way," said Rich Fedorchak, the park's chief of interpretation and education.


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Ute, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche and other Native tribes lived in and traveled through the land that is now Rocky Mountain National Park. Indigenous peoples' occupancy in the mountain region goes back thousands of years, CU said.

"As U.S. gold prospectors and miners flooded to the territory after 1858, the tribes were forced to negotiate treaties that eventually took away all indigenous claims to the land and relocated the tribes to distant reservations," the CU post read.

With 4.5 million visitors making their way to the national park in 2016, workshop participants agreed it was crucial for Native Americans to have control over how their history is shared.

"Sharing accurate information with visitors can bring an understanding and respect for each other's culture, history and way of life," said Devin Oldman, tribal historic preservation officer for the Arapaho Tribe of the Wind River Reservation.

Elizabeth Hernandez: 303-473-1106, hernandeze@dailycamera.com