Grant to help uncover forgotten history of the Golden area

Effort to catalogue, promote little-known and often ignored Native American past

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/10/21

Long before the first white settlers ever made their way to Golden, the city and its surroundings were inhabited by members of at least three Native American tribes who possessed their own rich …

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Grant to help uncover forgotten history of the Golden area

Effort to catalogue, promote little-known and often ignored Native American past

Posted

Long before the first white settlers ever made their way to Golden, the city and its surroundings were inhabited by members of at least three Native American tribes who possessed their own rich culture that thrived in the area for thousands of years.

Now, the city of Golden is in the process of commissioning a new study that will aim to deepen the existing understanding of those tribes and their worlds — and perhaps lead those who live in the city today to consider some aspects of their home and its history in a different light.

According to a memo sent from Senior City Planner Lauren Simmons to Golden’s Planning Commission the city of Golden was recently the recipient of a $25,000 Certified Local Grant from the Colorado state historical society, History Colorado.

That grant will be used to fund what the city is calling a Native American Ethnographic Study that will see it hire an ethnographic consultant who will interview the members of the tribes that were once present in Golden and consult literature and documents relating to their presence to find out as much as possible about what happened in Golden prior to European settlement.

Simmons further explained that the effort is being referred to as an ethnographic study because the point of it is to get a Native American viewpoint on the Golden area and its past and to have members of that community tell their story.

“Much of Golden’s history is really tied to its mining-related settlement, so this study is to really look and see what else is out there and get their (the Native Americans) and get their perspective on that time and history in Golden,” said Simmons.

She added that the intention of the study is to provide a foundation for future projects that will help the city to communicate and showcase that history and its significance to residents and visitors. A page on the city’s Guiding Golden page also states that another goal of the project is to help the city build a stronger relationship with the descendants of the Native American communities that once called the region home.

The page states: “The city hopes to lay the foundation of trusting and collaborative relationships that could be grown over time to include Native participation in preserving and interpreting Native history, developing future educational initiatives, and adding underrepresented voices in the city’s ongoing work to preserve regional heritage.”

However, Simmons further explained that the $25,000 will likely be enough to only cover the cost of the study with the city needing to find or provide additional funding for other projects.

During a discussion held during the June 3 planning commission meeting, Simmons said that while the project will lead to exciting new insights for the city, it will also likely reveal some troubling truths.

Planning Commission member Crissy Fanganello was among those who expressed support for the value of gaining such insights, even when they can be difficult to confront.

“I think the more we can have that forward-looking approach of how do we educate people about what happened here that maybe we weren’t taught as we are seeing in other parts of the country and how do we reveal some of the uglier sides that are really important to know and be responsible for,” she said. “So this is a really interesting project.”

Simmons said the city, specifically the Golden Museum & History Park that will work closely on the project, was already thinking about ways to share the findings of the year-long study with the community.

“Obviously we can publish a paper and that’s easy to do,” she said. “But is there something like an illustrated book or an exhibit at the museum? Are there other ways to get the information out?”

First, however, the city will complete a public input process to get resident feedback about what the study should ultimately aim to do. To that end, the city recently posted a forum on guidinggolden.com that asks residents about the project.

Recent responses include a suggestion that one aim of the project to be determine if there are sacred or ritual spaces that can still be preserved. Another respondent suggested that the project could lead to “real discussions and truth telling about the Western persona of Golden.”

During the conversation with the Planning Commission, Simmons repeatedly emphasized that while the city should develop some goals for the project, it will need to be balance that with being as open-minded as possible about what it will find out and what those findings will lead to.

“We really see this as step one or step zero,” Simmons said of the study.

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