Late last month, the Denver City Council adopted a measure to read a land acknowledgement prior to each meeting. A land acknowledgement is a verbal statement that recognizes that the land on which a gathering or meeting is taking place once belonged to indigenous people. Councilwoman Jamie Torres sponsored the Land Acknowledgement and has stated the importance of recognizing our deep indigenous history in Denver and our ability to ensure contemporary indigenous community members are recognized at the decision-making table. The full text of the land acknowledgment is available at https://www.denvergov.org/…/denver-city-counc…/about-us.html.
The adoption of the land acknowledgement by council represents continuing efforts on behalf of local lawmakers to recognize the historical and contemporary contributions of indigenous peoples to the city of Denver.
Our office's historical records tell stories of other such efforts. This file from our archives, pictured, shows a 1977 cooperative agreement between the City and County of Denver and the White Buffalo Council of American Indians, a non-profit founded in the 1950s to provide services for the Native community and cultural outreach.
In this agreement, the City granted the use and occupancy of Daniels Park in Douglas County for use as a cultural site, gathering place, and events venue. Pictured is the signature on behalf of the White Buffalo Council was its president, Richard Tallbull (1918-2002).
Tallbull was a Cheyenne activist and leader in Colorado, advocating for greater recognition of Native culture and history in the state. Among many other accomplishments, he successfully helped erect monuments across the state, collaborated with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on Native exhibits and he and his wife, Gertrude’s artwork is held in the collection of the Denver Art Museum. Pictured, Tallbull (left) works on a diorama for Denver Museum of Nature and Science [photo from DMNS annals]
Under Richard’s leadership the WBC established the Tall Bull Memorial Park, named for Richard’s great-grandfather, Tall Bull (1830-1869). The elder Tall Bull was a Cheyenne chief and leader of the Dog Soldiers, a group which resisted the colonization of their land. In 1867, Tall Bull worked closely with Denver founder Edward Wynkoop in attempting to negotiate peace between white settlers and natives in Colorado. However, continuous encroachment, rapid expansion, and acts of violence by the former caused the efforts to fail. Tall Bull was killed two years later at the Battle of Summit Springs.
The Tall Bull Memorial Park continues to operate in Daniels Park under successors to the 1977 agreement. This record demonstrates an important example of what the City and County can do to honor Native heritage and acknowledge the damage sustained by Native cultures through the city’s history.