Ortiz: Acknowledge the stolen land CSU stands on

Kenia Ortiz

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

As we begin to welcome in new students at the start of the semester, Colorado State University has made it a practice of mentioning that our campus sits on “stolen land” during its opening ceremonies for students.

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Since I started attending CSU in 2016, I have heard this topic come up a lot more. As a second-year resident assistant, I have been to convocation, the welcome ceremony for the incoming freshman class, three times. I attended as a freshman, a sophomore and this year as a junior.

I was glad convocation started by acknowledging that CSU is sitting on stolen land. I am proud of CSU for stating this out loud and welcoming our incoming class by acknowledging the history, but I do hope it does not end here.

It is important that CSU and the Fort Collins community continue to acknowledge this and continue to explore ways to show support and respect towards the history of this land and its people.

Native American students make up the smallest percentage of our school’s population, which is about 1 percent, according to data from the Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness.

In May, two prospective Native American students had campus police called on them during a tour of the campus, because another woman on the tour said she felt nervous about the students’ presence on the tour. 

In the remaining time I have left at CSU, I want to see us as a community find ways of talking about the history of this land before it was a school and the measures that were taken to have it become the University we have today.

Many students are not aware that the land which the University is built on was the homeland to Native American tribes where they hunted, built a community and passed down traditions. The land was once home to Ute, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Lakota, Apache and Comanche tribes, according to the Fort Collins History Connection, but they were pushed to the side and labeled as invaders. 

Even if the removal of Native American tribes took place in the late 1800s, the effects in contemporary times are still relevant.

In the 1840s, settlers began making their way into Larimer County and with them brought contagious diseases such as measles and cholera. As the settlers moved in, roads were built, buffalo herds shrunk and settlers built homes on hunting grounds, according to FCHC

In 1867, the Treaty of Medicine Lodge Creek took place when the tribe of Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho gave up their land and were moved to a reservation in Oklahoma and Southeastern Montana, according to FCHC.

It is important that the CSU community knows this and registers this fact because it applies to CSU, Fort Collins and the entirety of America. I have often heard comments such as, “It was a long time ago, let it go.”

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Imagine being told to let go of something that massacred thousands of families and stripped away land and traditions.

Imagine being told that the loss and pain that was inflicted on your community should just be let go.

In a time where this country is polarized on issues of immigration and holds hostile attitudes towards non-white Americans, it is important to remember who this land belongs to.

There has been an uproar on nativism and nationalism and what it means to be “American,” when the true Americans have been massacred and have limited resources.

Even if the removal of Native American tribes took place in the late 1800s, the effects in contemporary times are still relevant.

To learn more about Native American history, traditions and culture in the CSU community and for information about getting involved, visit the Native American Cultural Center in the Lory Student Center.

Many Native American communities report having up to 85 percent unemployment, according to an article from Bloomberg; less than 50 percent of Native students graduate high school and as of 2011, there were over 120,000 Native homes that lacked access to water sanitation services.

I hope that the phrase “we are on stolen land” does not become a passive statement that will no longer have an effect. I also have hope that our community will continue to try to find a meaningful way to acknowledge the history of the land we are on and the people who were here and wrongfully removed before us.

Kenia Ortiz can be reached at letters@collegain.com or online at @CSUCollegian.