Overall History of Colorado

September 12th, 2011 3:57 am

Six bands of Utes once resided in a vast area stretching between the Yampa and San Juan Rivers. When white miners entered their lands, the Utes did not give in so easily. Chief Ouray (1833–80), remembered for paving the way to peace between the two parties, actually had little choice but to eventually give up most of the Utes’ territory.

The mining era was launched with the discovery of gold west of Denver in 1859, but by the 1870s silver had taken center stage. Mountain smelter sites, such as Leadville and Aspen, turned into thriving population centers ­almost overnight.

The state relied heavily on its abundant natural resources, and the 20th century was economically topsy-turvy. Tourism and the high-tech industry have come to the rescue and made Colorado the most prosperous of the Rocky Mountain states.

Gold Rush and the Plains Indians War

September 12th, 2011 3:55 am

In July 1858, the first significant gold find in Colorado was discovered in Cherry Creek (now Denver). Exaggerated accounts of the discovery spread, and the Pike’s Peak gold rush began. Thousands of gold seekers set out for Colorado, and mining towns such as Boulder and Central City sprang up seemingly overnight. By 1860, the state’s population exceeded 30,000, and still the settlers kept coming, drawn by the motto “Pike’s Peak or Bust!” Congress passed an act creating the Territory of Colorado on February 28, 1861.

The 1860s saw the most serious conflicts between Native Americans and white settlers in Colorado’s history. To make way for white settlers, the federal government forced Cheyenne and Arapaho off their tribal lands. Left with no alternative, these tribes returned to their nomadic lifestyle. Attacks on towns and travelers were common as the Arapaho and Cheyenne suffered from a government-mandated buffalo extermination program. By depleting their primary source of food, the government hoped to eradicate Native Americans in Colorado.

One of the U.S. government’s most infamous acts against Native Americans occurred in November 1864. Accepting the military’s invitation to camp near Fort Lyon, in southeastern Colorado Territory, Cheyenne and Arapaho set up winter camp and flew the American flag. However, on November 29, nearly 700 U.S. volunteer cavalry attacked the camp, killing and mutilating at least 165 Native Americans, including women and children, in what came to be known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

The Colorado Territory’s boundaries were preserved when, after several unsuccessful attempts, it entered the Union on August 1, 1876, as America’s 38th state. Colorado is nicknamed the Centennial State in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.