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American Indians of the Pikes Peak Region

American Indians of the Pikes Peak Region

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American Indians of the Pikes Peak Region

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222 pages
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May 12, 2008


Thousands of years before Zebulon Pike s name became attached to this famous mountain, Pikes Peak was home to indigenous people. These First Nations left no written record of their sojourn here, but what they did leave were stone circles, carefully crafted arrowheads and stone tools, enigmatic petroglyphs, and culturally scarred trees. In the 1500s, Spanish explorers documented their locations, language, and numbers. In the 1800s, mountain men and official explorers such as Pike, Fremont, and Long also wrote about these First Nations. Comanche, Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Lakota made incursions into the region. These nations contested Ute land possession, harvested the abundant wildlife, and paid homage to the powerful spirits at Garden of the Gods and Manitou Springs. Today Ute Indians return to Garden of the Gods and to Pikes Peak each year to perform their sacred Sundance Ceremony.
May 12, 2008

À propos de l'auteur

Author Celinda R. Kaelin is president of the Pikes Peak Historical Society and has written and lectured on this subject for 13 years. Kaelin has culled the images in this volume from the archives at the Museum of New Mexico, the Colorado Historical Society, the Pikes Peak Library District, the Denver Public Library, and the Ute Pass Historical Society.

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American Indians of the Pikes Peak Region - Celinda R. Kaelin



Pikes Peak commands the horizon of the Rocky Mountains along Colorado’s Front Range, looming above Colorado Springs on the east, Pueblo and Cripple Creek on the south, Florissant on the west, and Woodland Park on the north. Its snow-capped summit has a numinousness that speaks to human beings from at least 12,000 years ago to our present time.

Archaeological surveys on the west slope of Pikes Peak, at Mueller State Park, and at the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument reveal a number of ancient sites. In 1932, Etienne Renaud from the University of Denver’s anthropology department and his survey team found sites in the Florissant Valley that included 12,000-year-old artifacts. A 1974 survey documented Plano artifacts from about 8,000 years ago. On the east side of Pikes Peak, around Colorado Springs, archaeologists have documented human presence from thousands of years ago at Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, Garden of the Gods, and Pulpit Rock Open Space.

Who were these ancient people? Did they simply disappear, or did they evolve a unique cultural identity? In answer, the Nuche (Ute Indians) say that these ancient people were their ancestors. Age-old legends tell of their creation on Pikes Peak:

Sunif and Yahowitz lived in a carniv, a cloud tipi, on top of Pikes Peak. One day, the Older Brother [Sunif, the wolf] wanted to put the people here and there, so he made a little bag and this he will pack on his back and as he moves to the north he will distribute these little people throughout the world. He did not tell anyone about what he was doing. But his brother Yahowitz [the coyote] was a curious animal.

Yahowitz murmured, "Ahat iya aqay? What is he doing? The Older Brother was breaking these small twigs to small size and putting them in a bag. But the Younger Brother watched without getting too close. Now the Older Brother, Sunif, decided to take a walk and when he was gone the curiosity got the best of the Younger Brother, Yahowitz. Because in the bag he could hear people talking. There’s music going on in the bag. He’d listen real carefully and he would say, Niahook? What’s it saying, what is in there?" So he took his flint knife and he cut a little hole on the side of the bag.

And when he looked in through the hole, the people saw him. There were people in there. The sticks had turned into people. And some jumped out, and about that time the Older Brother he’s come back again. Not knowing what had taken place, he put the bag on his back. Every once in while he would stop and reach in the bag and put some people down on the earth and say, You will live here!

Finally, when he got to the high place way up in the mountains, then he knew what was going on. There was a hole in the bag and all the people had jumped out. But they are still in there that he left in there and he talked to them. You my people, you my children, I’m going to put you over here. You will be called the Yutica, Yuta, the Ute. You will live in these mountains for these shining mountains will be your home.

And that’s how the distribution was made and how the Utes were placed on the mountains.

—Clifford Duncan, Northern Ute elder

Fortunately, Sunif placed the Ute people in the Rocky Mountains, their Shining Mountains, which abound in big game such as elk, bear, deer, and antelope. Plains Indians, jealous of this hunter’s paradise, constantly disputed Ute possession of the Pikes Peak region. Their incursions began when Athapascans pushed down through the Great Plains and into Ute territory about 1400 CE. Ute Indians have an oral record of these invaders, who were big and red, and they fought the little people and killed many of them, and those they did not kill they drove away to the south. The big people followed to the south, and they were the fathers of the Navajo, Apache, and Kiowa. These aggressors from the north named the people they found in the Southwest Anasazi, ancient enemy, providing lasting documentation of this conflict.

Some bands of these Apaches continued southward until they settled in western New Mexico, where they took up farming. Local Tewa Indians referred to them as Navahu, cultivators of large tracts of land. Other bands like the Jicarillas established villages along the Arkansas River. Spanish maps and documents show their presence in the Pikes Peak region from the early 1500s. However, conflicts with the Comanche Nation forced the Jicarillas out of the Pikes Peak area by the 1700s. From there, the Jicarillas established a homeland in northwestern New Mexico.

Comanches, Shoshones, and Utes share the same dialect of the Aztec (Numic) language, and were one people long ago. Scientists theorize that the Shoshone culture first appeared in the late 1600s. Shoshones probably separated from the Utes after the introduction of the horse. A note on a 1778 Spanish map tells us of Comanche origins.

The mapmaker writes that the Comanches split from the Ute Nation after an altercation at Abiquiu, New Mexico, in the early 1700s. Spanish authorities corrupted the Ute word Komantcia, which means anyone who wants to fight me all the time, leading to historic use of the name Comanche. Comanches were forced from the Pikes Peak region in the late 1700s.

In the domino-type displacement of First Nations after the European invasion, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians flooded into the Pikes Peak region from the northeast in the early 1800s. Their ancestors, the Lenni Lenape (the Delaware), kept a record of their migrations from the Bering Strait on wooden tablets called Wallam Olum, or Red Record. After acquiring the horse in the mid-1700s, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations ranged into South Dakota and Wyoming. In the 1830s, they were drawn to the lower Arkansas for trade at Bent’s Fort.

This predominately peaceful era of the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos ended abruptly in 1864. On November 29, Col. John Chivington and a force of 700 soldiers

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    great beginning to learning about this part of the world and it's people