Indigenous History of Denver

AAAL acknowledges the Indigenous history of the Denver region and in Colorado more broadly, and recognizes the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

This land once belonged to the Arapaho tribe, as laid out in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. When gold was discovered in the1850s, white settlers arrived in large numbers and asserted land rights, leading to the Treaty of Fort Wise in 1861 and land cessation by some tribal leaders. In 1864, the Sand Creek Massacre resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Arapaho and Cheyenne people, and soon after these nations were relocated out of state.

Other Indigenous nations native to Colorado include the Apache, Comanche, Shoshone, and Ute. The latter includes the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, federally recognized tribes that have their current headquarters in Ignacio, CO and Towaoc, CO, respectively.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Denver was one of nine federal relocation sites, part of an effort to promote assimilation by moving American Indian peoples from reservations to urban centers. As a result, approximately 7,000 people identifying as American Indian/Alaska Native reside in Denver today, just over one percent of the city’s population. 

While in Colorado, consider visiting the History Colorado CenterNative American Trading Company, and Denver Art Museum to learn more about the Denver area’s historical and current Indigenous populations.


"Indigenous Tribes of Colorado", American Library Association, November 21, 2017. (Accessed August 5, 2019)