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Native Land Acknowledgment 

The Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance (IPWA) acknowledges that the Indian Peaks and James Peaks Wilderness Areas are the ancestral and unceded lands of the Nuuchu (Ute), Hinono’ei (Arapaho) and Tsistsistas (Cheyenne). Further, 48 contemporary tribal nations are historically tied to the lands that make up the state of Colorado. We honor the indigenous communities past, present and future who have stewarded this land through generations. 

We honor the original stewards


A land acknowledgement is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose ancestral lands we reside on and visit today, and as a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land since time immemorial. It is important to understand the long standing history of Native Lands and our wilderness areas, and to seek to understand our place within that history. It is also worth noting that acknowledging the land is Indigenous protocol.

“All or part of every national forest and grassland is carved out of the ancestral lands of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples. Indigenous communities across the country still maintain strong historical and spiritual connections to the land, connections that have not been extinguished despite changes in land ownership.”

- Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon


“It is important to understand the longstanding history that has brought you to reside on the land, and to seek to understand your place within that history. Land acknowledgements do not exist in a past tense, or historical context: colonialism is a current ongoing process, and we need to build our mindfulness of our present participation.”

– Northwestern University

Native American History of the Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness Areas

As you hike in the beautiful mountain wilderness, consider the peoples who have come before. 


"When we talk about land, land is part of who we are. It’s a mixture of our blood, our past, our current, and our future. We carry our ancestors in us, and they’re around us.” 

  - Mary Lyons (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe)

The Indian Peaks and James Peak wilderness areas are a part of the traditional homelands of the Nuuchu (Ute), Hinono’ei (Arapaho) and Tsistsistas (Cheyenne) peoples, who lived, hunted, and traversed the mountains seasonally. They were massacred and forcibly removed to reservations to pave the way for settlers and the mining boom. These tribal peoples still exist today, a testament to their resistance and survival despite centuries of colonialism.

Divide Trail near Arapaho Pass - Photo by Yonah Cohen
Indian-with-two-tepees-beside-a-lake-in-Rocky-Mountain-National-Park 1920 photo

Public lands have a dark and largely untold history beginning with the genocide and forced removal of Native Americans. It is important to acknowledge that the concept of ‘wilderness’ is problematic because it idealizes a pristine environment free of humans, denying the history of the original inhabitants who were an interconnected part of the landscape for millennia prior to colonization. Native peoples managed the landscape through sustainable game management, resource harvesting and prescribed burns that kept the ecosystem in balance.


“The public lands we love today were once Indigenous lands, and that the actions taken to "conserve" them have sometimes been exclusionary, insensitive or engineered to benefit only a privileged few.” (Wilderness Society Public Lands Curriculum)

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