Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Curse of Chief Niwot

This sculpture is a rendition of Chief Niwot as see through the eyes of sculptor Thomas Meagher Miller. ©2011 Steve BorichevskyIt is said that in the 1820s, an Arapaho boy was seen to reach for his mother with his left hand. In their Algonquian langue, he was named Niwot which means “left handed”.

The irony in this is that in our Anglo culture, left handed equates to sinister, yet it was Niwot that was dealt blows from evil doers.

Chief Niwot was a man of peace. He was the brother-in-law of a white trader, John Poisal from whom he learned to speak English. He worked towards peaceful coexistence with the white settlers, yet he was killed in a massacre while trying to comply with orders baited with promises of peace if Niwot moved his people to Sand Creek.  On November 29, 1864 the camp was attacked.

The Arapaho name most likely means “trader” or “buyer” in the Pawnee language.

Yet, the Curse of Chief Niwot has nothing to do with these events. It was in the first encounters with white miners that Niwot professed that “People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.” Today this has been distilled down the sentiment is that anyone that lives in the Boulder Valley will eventually be drawn back should they leave.

While Boulder is a beautiful city, one can only imagine what it was like before with herds of bison and short grass prairie. Actually, you can. Just a little north and a little south are tracts of land that are untouched...for now. Fortunately Boulder County has an extensive green belt program that has prevented much of the urban sprawl. Yet in my time, I have seen a reduction in hawk populations and entire wetlands where thousands of migratory waterfowl once stopped over decimated with ticky-tacky.

Along Boulder Creek is a long walking and biking trail. My hotel was built along this path and I took a walk up the trail from 28th Street up past Settler’s Park at the mouth of Boulder Canyon. This bridge crosses the creek right by my hotel. The concrete structure on the left is actually a little bunker built into the side of the creek where with windows that you can look into the creek and perhaps spy a fish. I did see one! ©2011 Steve Borichevsky

There was an abundance of snow in the mountains this past winter. I first noted it when I landed and saw the mountains still had a deal of snow. The water level of the creek is usually much lower than this in July. This looks more like the spring runoff rather than the mid summer trickle.©2011 Steve Borichevsky

This is the present beauty of Boulder Creek. One can only imagine the past beauty as it existed in Niwot’s time. Yet this is part of the charm of Boulder and the Boulder Creek path creates so many uses for  the creek, thus making it accessible for all. 

My personal manifestation of the Curse of Chief Niwot is that I have been seduced by the fragrant smell of the ponderosa pines, the sound of the wind in the short grass prairie, the ever present mule deer and the unique landscape where the plains meet the Rocky Mountains. If having lived here for 16 years and having that chapter of my life closed is a symptom, then I have indeed been cursed.
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Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

Another interesting post. You are getting good with this video thing too. I went hunting for dragons yesterday with your video advice in mind. I came away with unexpected results which will be on my blog later this week. Thank you!

Gemma Wiseman said...

A very moving, intriguing post! Love the energy in your watery images!

Kim, USA said...

Thanks for this great information. Like your photo and the video is awesome! ^_^

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