Most of us who have lived for any length of time in Boulder have heard of Chief Niwot (or Left Hand). After all, cities, mountains, roads, and even a brewery are named after him, let alone the number of roads, etc. that are named after his people, the Arapaho.
Most of us have also heard of Niwot’s “curse,” though some call it less a curse and more a prediction or premonition:
“People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.”
Niwot is notable as a Boulder historical figure to be proud of, because of all American history during the times of Native American oppression, war, and massacre by White settlers, Niwot stands out as one of the most strongly peaceful figures withal. From his first encounter with gold rushers through his last days in the Sand Creek Massacre, never once did Niwot choose to go to war against those that encroached on his people, displaced them, and even slaughtered them.
FUN (and not so fun) FACTS:
- Niwot had another premonition, this time in the form of a dream sent by the Great Spirit. In the dream, Niwot saw a huge flood encompass the earth, sweeping away the Arapaho and leaving the whites surviving. He interpreted this dream to symbolize the onrush of gold seekers during Boulder Valley’s Gold Rush.
- They say that when the 3rd Colorado Cavalry under Colonel Chivington’s command walked in to Niwot’s already-displaced settlement and slaughtered the people there, Niwot stood stoic in the midst of the flying bullets, arms crossed, unwilling to take up arms even until his mortal wound.
- It was rumored that Chief Niwot didn’t actually die in the Sand Creek Massacre at all, but survived his wounds and went to live in a reservation in Oklahoma. This rumor has been debunked by historians, who say that there was another, younger chief named after Niwot that did live in Oklahoma, but not the man himself. It makes for a quite heroic, Arthurian legendary quality about him, though, doesn’t it?