Report: Colorado Was Built Up on $1.7T of Indigenous Land

Nonprofit IDs 10 tribal nations that were dispossessed of their homelands
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 14, 2024 12:56 PM CDT
Report: Colorado Was Built Up on $1.7T of Indigenous Land
The gold dome of the Colorado State Capitol is shown on Feb. 14 in downtown Denver.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

A report published this week by a Native American-led nonprofit examines in detail the dispossession of $1.7 trillion worth of Indigenous homelands in Colorado by the state and the US and the more than $546 million the state has reaped in mineral extraction from them. The report, shared first with the AP, identifies 10 tribal nations that have "aboriginal title, congressional title, and treaty title to lands within Colorado" and details the ways the land was legally and illegally taken. It determined that many of the transactions were in direct violation of treaty rights or, in some cases, lacked title for a legal transfer.

The 771-page report also calls on Colorado State University to return 19,000 acres of land that was taken from tribal nations through the Morrill Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, which used expropriated land to create land grant universities across the country. "Once we were removed, they just simply started divvying up the land, creating parcels, and selling it to non-Natives and other interests and businesses," said Dallin Mayberry, an artist, legal scholar, and enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe who took part in the Truth, Restoration, and Education Commission, which compiled the report. "When you think about examples of land theft, that is one of the most blatant instances that we could see."

The report also recommends actions that can be taken by the state, the federal government, and Congress, including honoring treaty rights by resolving illegal land transfers; compensating the tribal nations affected; restoring hunting and fishing rights; and levying a 0.1% fee on real estate deals in Colorado to "mitigate the lasting effects of forced displacement, genocide, and other historical injustices." That could look something like what happened not long ago in Canada, where, following the conclusion of a truth and reconciliation commission in 2015, the government set aside $4.7 billion to support Indigenous communities affected by its Indian residential schools. More here.

(More Colorado stories.)

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