What’s in a Name? Change.

27 Sep 2021

Boulder is renaming Settler’s Park as The Peoples’ Crossing

In October of 1858, a group of hopeful gold-seekers arrived near the mouth of what is now Boulder Canyon. Chief Niwot of the Southern Arapaho promptly rode out to the encampment to warn the intruders to leave—they were squatting on protected Arapaho land, in violation of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie.

Plying Chief Niwot with gifts, food and drink, the gold-seekers convinced him to let them stay, claiming that they were just camping through the winter before moving up the canyon in the spring to mine for their treasures. Yet when gold was discovered nearby (in what is now Gold Hill) the following January, they changed their minds. By February, they had officially formed the Boulder City Town Company, violating the treaty once again.

The disputed one-acre camp, at the base of a scenic red sandstone formation near where Pearl Street meets Canyon Boulevard, has been known as “Settler’s Park” since the 1990s. That name reduces a shared history to one narrative, which prioritizes those who violated the land rights of the Southern Arapaho.

This is just one of the wrongs that the Boulder City Council has been attempting to right since 2016. That’s when they passed a resolution declaring that the second Monday in October would be recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD) rather than Columbus Day. (There are now 14 states and more than 130 cities that commemorate IPD instead of, or alongside, Columbus Day.)

One requirement of the resolution is that the city work to “correct omissions of the Native American presence in public places, resources and cultural programming.” Finally, after five years of discussion and planning, the city is renaming Settler’s Park as The Peoples’ Crossing. The new name was chosen based on recommendations of representatives from federally recognized American Indian Tribes. The city plans on installing new trailhead signs and interpretive panels at the park prior to IPD in October.

“The name honors the area as a crossroads for Indigenous Peoples who have traversed and lived in the mountains and plains of the Boulder area since time immemorial,” says Phillip Yates, spokesperson for the city of Boulder. “The People” and “Our People” are English translations of terms that many American Indian Tribal Nations use when referring to themselves in their native languages, Yates explains, and the name is meant to be inclusive of all people who have traveled through, or lived in, the area.

For information about programs and events planned for IPD weekend, visit bouldercolorado.gov/services/indigenous-peoples-day.

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