Skip to Content Facebook Feature Image

Report finds Colorado was built on $1.7 trillion of land expropriated from tribal nations

News

Report finds Colorado was built on $1.7 trillion of land expropriated from tribal nations
News

News

Report finds Colorado was built on $1.7 trillion of land expropriated from tribal nations

2024-06-15 00:07 Last Updated At:00:10

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 U.S. and the more than $546 million the state has reaped in mineral extraction from them.

The report, shared first with The Associated Press, 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.

“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 Maybee, 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,” Maybee continued, “that is one of the most blatant instances that we could see.”

The commission was convened by People of the Sacred Land, a Colorado-based nonprofit that works to document the history of Indigenous displacement in the state. The commission and its report are modeled after similar truth and reconciliation commissions that sought to comprehensively account for genocide and the people still affected by those acts and governmental policies.

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'”

“If acknowledgment is the first step, then what is the second step?” Maybee said. “That’s where some of the treaties come in. They guaranteed us health and welfare and education, and we just simply want them to live up to those promises.”

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.

The U.S. currently has no similar commission, but a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a Chickasaw Nation citizen, and Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, would establish a commission to research and document the long-term effects of the Indian boarding school system in the U.S. That measure passed the House Education and Workforce Committee on Thursday with bipartisan support.

“The United States carried out a federal policy of genocide and extermination against Native peoples, and their weapon against our youngest and most vulnerable was the policy of Indian Boarding Schools,” said Ben Barnes, chief of the Shawnee Tribe, who testified before Congress in support of a commission to investigate the ongoing effects of the boarding schools.

“The next step is reconciliation and healing for the generations who’ve dealt with the trauma that followed, which begins with establishing the Truth and Healing Commission to investigate further,” Barnes said.

The 771-page report also calls on Colorado State University to return 19,000 acres of land that was taken from several tribal nations through the Morrill Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, which used expropriated land to create land grant universities across the country.

In 2023 the university pledged to commit $500,000 of the earnings from its land grant holdings. But while the commission commended that decision, it said “there are questions about its adequacy, given the resources that have been generated by the endowment created by selling and/or leasing stolen land.”

A university spokesperson told AP that the school has not had a chance to review the report but noted that “that revenue from the endowment land income fund is used for the benefit of Native American faculty, staff and students.”

The commission also found that Native American students in Colorado have lower high school graduation rates and higher dropout rates than any other racial demographic. It determined that state schools teach about Native American issues only once in elementary school and then again in high school U.S. history classes, and it called on the Colorado Department of Education to increase the amount of its curriculum that focuses on the histories, languages and modern cultures of tribal nations that are indigenous to the state.

The education department said in a statement that it is “committed to elevating and honoring our Indigenous communities.

“We have worked alongside tribal representatives to create a culturally affirming fourth-grade curriculum focused on Ute history fourth-grade curriculum and have made this available to our school districts and educators,” the statement added.

However that educational program is not mandatory across Colorado, where curriculum decisions are made at the local level.

A 2019 study found that 87% of public schools in the U.S. fail to teach about Indigenous peoples in a post-1900 context and that most states make no mention of them in their K-12 curriculum.

“They should be an integral part of the curriculum, especially in areas where there’s a high percentage of Native Americans,” said Richard Little Bear, former president of Chief Dull Knife College in Montana and a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. “There’s gotta be a full scale effort.”

The story has been updated to correct the spelling of Dallin Maybee’s last name, from Mayberry.

Brewer is an Oklahoma City-based member of AP's Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on X at @grahambrewer

FILE - The gold dome of the State Capitol is shown on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in downtown Denver. A report published this week, Friday, June 14, 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 U.S. and the more than $546 million the state has reaped in mineral extraction from them. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

FILE - The gold dome of the State Capitol is shown on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in downtown Denver. A report published this week, Friday, June 14, 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 U.S. and the more than $546 million the state has reaped in mineral extraction from them. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Donald Trump's campaign chiefs designed the Republican convention opening this week to feature a softer and more optimistic message, focusing on themes that would help a divisive leader expand his appeal among moderate voters and people of color.

Then came the shooting that rattled the foundation of American politics.

Suddenly, the Democrats’ turmoil after the debate, the GOP’s potential governing agenda and even Trump’s criminal convictions became secondary to concerns about political violence and the country's stability. The presumptive Republican nominee and his allies will face the nation during their four-day convention in Milwaukee unquestionably united and ready to “fight,” as the bloodied Trump cried out Saturday while Secret Service agents at his Pennsylvania rally rushed him to safety.

Anger and anxiety are coursing through the party, even as many top Republicans call for calm and a lowering of tensions.

Vivek Ramaswamy, who ran in the GOP presidential primary, has distinguished himself as one of the more aggressive voices on the right, saying often that the country is already at war with itself. So it was notable that in remarks at an event run by the conservative Heritage Institute at the RNC on Monday he was toning down his rhetoric and urging the country to come together.

“The enemy is not the Democrats, it is an ideology,” Ramaswamy told the crowd at Heritage’s “Policy Fest” event.

GOP Sen. Steve Daines, the chair of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, said at a Politico event at the RNC on Monday that the party needs to focus on policy and not divisive politics in the aftermath of Saturday’s shooting.

“This is a moment, as we say, that the temperature needs to be brought down,” the Montana lawmaker said. “What needs to be litigated for the American people in the next three and a half months should be more policy and not personalities.”

On Monday, hours before the first convention session, some well-timed good news for Trump got the day off to a positive start for him and his party. The federal judge presiding over Trump's classified documents case dismissed the prosecution because of concerns over the appointment of the prosecutor who brought the case, handing the former president a major court victory.

Trump posted on his Truth Social platform to call for the dismissal of his other legal cases.

“As we move forward in Uniting our Nation after the horrific events on Saturday, this dismissal of the Lawless Indictment in Florida should be just the first step, followed quickly by the dismissal of ALL the Witch Hunts,” he wrote, listing several cases.

Meanwhile, Trump is expected to announce his vice presidential pick on the first day of the Republican National Convention, he said in an interview.

It remains unclear whether the shooting Saturday at his Pennsylvania rally has changed the former president’s thinking about his potential second-in-command. But he told Fox News Channel host Bret Baier in a call that he planned to make his pick Monday.

In an interview Sunday, Republican Party chairman Michael Whatley said the convention’s programming wouldn't be changed after the shooting. The agenda, he said, will feature more than 100 speakers overwhelmingly focused on kitchen table issues and Trump’s plans to lift everyday working Americans.

“We have to be able to lay out a vision for where we want to take this country," he said.

Whatley said the central message would have little to do with President Joe Biden’s political struggles, Trump’s grievances about the 2020 election or the ex-president’s promises to exact retribution against political enemies.

“We are going to have the convention that we have been planning for the last 18 months," he said. "We are a combination of relieved and grateful that the president is going to be here and is going to accept the nomination.”

Beyond voting to formally give Trump the nomination, elected delegates from across the nation will update the GOP’s policy platform for the first time since 2016. The scaled-down platform proposal — just 16 pages with limited specifics on key issues, including abortion — reflects a desire by the Trump campaign to avoid giving Democrats more material on a key campaign issue.

The platform approved by a committee last week doesn't include an explicit call for a national abortion ban, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended a federally guaranteed right to abortion.

“More divisiveness would not be healthy,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

As Trump prepares to announce his choice for vice president, his top three contenders are North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Ohio Sen. JD Vance and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, all expected to speak this week.

Despite a contentious primary season, any lingering tensions appear to have been set aside.

Former rivals Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, are expected to speak at the convention on Trump’s behalf.

There will be reminders of Trump’s record in a speaking program that includes a handful of Republicans charged with crimes related to other political violence — the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who's in jail on contempt of Congress charges, is expected to speak at the convention just hours after his release. He was found guilty in September after refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the Capitol attack.

Nevada GOP Chair Michael McDonald, who was indicted of criminal charges related to his involvement in a scheme to present fake electors who would overturn Biden's victory over Trump, plans to present the former president with the party nomination at the convention. A judge dismissed the case against McDonald last month over a venue dispute.

Trump has repeatedly cast the people involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, including his many supporters who stormed the Capitol, as political prisoners.

For now, Democrats have scaled back their plans to offer a competing message during the Republican convention.

The Biden campaign over the weekend pulled down its campaign ads. Vice President Kamala Harris postponed a Tuesday appearance in Florida set to focus on Trump’s opposition to abortion rights. And the pro-Democratic group American Bridge is delaying the scheduled Monday release of faux trading cards designed to highlight controversial policy positions of Trump and other leading Republicans.

The convention, coming less than four months before Election Day, is taking place in heavily Democratic Milwaukee, the largest city in a pivotal swing state Trump lost by less than 1 percentage point four years ago.

Even before the assassination attempt, major protests were expected, although movement will be severely restricted as part of enhanced security precautions established by the Secret Service.

Still, the risk of violent confrontation exists.

Security officials previously announced that people just outside the Secret Service perimeter would be allowed to carry guns openly or concealed as permitted by state law. Wisconsin statutes outlaw only machine guns, short-barreled shotguns and silencers.

Associated Press writer Christine Fernando reported from Chicago. AP writers Thomas Beaumont in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, and Ali Swenson in Minneapolis contributed.

A worker carries a chair during perperations for the Republican National Convention Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

A worker carries a chair during perperations for the Republican National Convention Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Law enforcement officers stand in an aisle at the 2024 Republican National Convention inside the Fiserv Forum, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Law enforcement officers stand in an aisle at the 2024 Republican National Convention inside the Fiserv Forum, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

An exterior general view at the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

An exterior general view at the 2024 Republican National Convention at the Fiserv Forum, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala. is seen during the Republican National Convention Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala. is seen during the Republican National Convention Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

A color guard comprised of veterans rehearses ahead of the 2024 Republican National Convention, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A color guard comprised of veterans rehearses ahead of the 2024 Republican National Convention, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Recommended Articles