The Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes did not always reside in Oklahoma. Their origins are actually in the Great Lakes regions of what we now call the United States. With the arrival of the horse and new technology, over hundreds of years, they migrated out to the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, finding greater fortunes hunting buffalo and engaging in trade commerce with the French and other non-Native populations. The Cheyenne and Arapaho drew closer together as allies around the end of the 18th century, combining many familial and ceremonial activities as a result.
This is a map of the Upper Plains / Northwest Territories where modern day Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado now exist. The orange section covering about 60% of the state of Colorado is the aboriginal homelands of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes in the mid-1800s, right before their fate and fortune would change dramatically in less than three decades.
While many people remember the Trail of Tears in the 1830s and 1840s, as well as the American Civil War of the 1860s, further west, momentous land battles and treaty-making were taking place
On September 17, 1851, the first Treaty of Ft. Laramie was signed between United States treaty commissioners and representatives of various tribal nations, including the Cheyenne and Arapaho. The treaty set forth traditional territorial claims of the tribes.
The United States acknowledged that all the land covered by the treaty was Indian territory and did not claim any part of it. The Native Americans guaranteed safe passage for settlers on the Oregon Trail and allowed roads and forts to be built in their territories. The treaty aimed to "make an effective and lasting peace" amongst the tribes and with the Unites States.
The treaty was broken almost immediately after its inception. In the decades, the United States failed to prevent mass immigration of miners and settlers into Colorado Territory. The U.S. government did not enforce the treaty to keep these “illegal aliens” out of the homelands of the Cheyenne and Arapaho.
So what really happened? Rumors of gold had filtered out of the Rockies since the 16th century. In 1807, explorer Zebulon M. Pike met trapper James Purcell in Santa Fe and learned that Purcell had found gold in the area eventually known as the Pikes Peak region. In 1850, travelers on their way to California found a small amount of gold in Ralston Creek in present-day Arvada. Around the same time, gold nuggets found near the future site of Denver by a U.S. Army scout sparked intense interest. However, the discovery of gold and other minerals alone was not enough to set off a rush.
Two other factors – the pacification of Native Americans and the unstable economy – opened the door for the surge of immigrants to Colorado in 1859. First, the treaties of Fort Laramie (1851) and Fort Atkinson (1853), signed by representatives of the United States and several Indigenous Nations of the Great Plains, made the westward trails a bit safer for Anglo-American travelers. Then, an economic downturn beginning in 1857 bankrupted many on the east coast, giving them the incentive to head west and start over. Finally, in 1857, news of Col. Edwin V. Sumner’s victory over a group of Cheyenne warriors in Kansas created the perception that Native Americans were no longer a threat. All of these events helped push Anglo-Americans and others westward.
The influx of so many white immigrants took a disastrous toll on the Native Americans living in Colorado’s plains and mountains. When the rush began in earnest in 1859, groups of Cheyenne, Lakota, Arapaho, and Kiowa lived on the plains, while Ute and Arapaho bands lived throughout the Front Range. Plains Indians spent the harsh winters along the sheltered river bottoms of the South Platte River and its tributaries as well as in the natural trough running north and south along the foothills of the Rockies. After 1858, Anglo-Americans increasingly traversed and occupied these areas, killing buffalo, trampling grazing grass, and cutting down precious timber. Native Americans soon found their resource base dwindling, and some began raiding wagon trains for supplies or in hopes of scaring off other white immigrants. Meanwhile, in the mountains, the Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho increasingly found traditional hunting grounds occupied by white mining camps, which cut into supplies of timber and game.
Faced with starvation and sporadic outbreaks of diseases for which they had no immunity, some Native American leaders, including Cheyenne chief Black Kettle and the Arapaho chief Left Hand, attempted to secure necessary food and supplies through negotiation. The U.S. government had promised Native Americans food and payment in exchange for land granted to them in previous treaties. However, the government often reneged on these payments, called annuities, leading some Native American groups to continue raiding white settlements.
The territorial government was not very interested in talks with the Cheyenne and Arapaho that did not involve complete surrender and the severe limitation of where the Native Americans could live or even hunt. Enter in two of the major players in this stance during a time the Cheyenne and Arapaho were fighting desperately to keep the homelands they had been promised by treaty.
On November 29, 1864, a peaceful band of Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho were massacred by Colonel John Chivington’s Colorado volunteers at Sand Creek, Colorado. What led up to this?
On February 8 of that year, a Cheyenne delegation, headed by Chief Black Kettle, along with some Arapaho leaders, ceded most of their land but secured a 600-square mile reservation and annuity payments. The delegation reasoned that continued hostilities would jeopardize their bargaining power and ability to persist as Native peoples. In the decentralized political world of the tribes, Black Kettle and his fellow delegates represented only part of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes. Many did not accept this new agreement, called the Treaty of Fort Wise.
Tensions were mounting. Chiefs Black Kettle and Left Hand pled for peace. They wrote to Major Wynkoop at Fort Lyon, expressing their desire to end violence. Wynkoop and 125 men marched apprehensively to the Smoky Hill River to meet with them. Negotiations followed. With renewed hope, Wynkoop and the chiefs headed for a peace counsel in Denver.
They met with Governor John Evans, Colonel John Chivington, and other officials on September 28, 1864 at Camp Weld. Chivington made his position clear: “My rule of fighting white men or Indians is to fight until they lay down their arms and submit to military authority. You are nearer to Major Wynkoop than anyone else, and you can go to him [at Fort Lyon] when you get ready to do that.”
Of 1,200 Cheyenne and Arapaho camped near Sand Creek in the autumn of 1864, about 650 Arapaho moved to Fort Lyon. “Prisoner rations” were not enough to sustain them, so they moved further east. A small Arapaho village under chief Left Hand chose instead to join the 500 or more Cheyenne still camped at Sand Creek.
The new reservation and federal payments proved unable to sustain the tribes. During the Civil War, tensions again rose and sporadic violence broke out between Anglos and Native Americans. In June 1864, John Evans attempted to isolate recalcitrant Native Americans by inviting “friendly Indians” to camp near military forts and receive provisions and protection. He also called for volunteers to fill the military void left when most of the regular army troops in Colorado were sent to other areas during the Civil War.
In August 1864, Evans met with Black Kettle, Left Hand, and several other chiefs from the Cheyenne and Arapaho to forge a new peace, and all parties left satisfied. Black Kettle moved his band to Fort Lyon, Colorado, where the commanding officer encouraged him to hunt near Sand Creek. In what can only be considered an act of treachery, Chivington moved his troops to the plains, and on November 29, they attacked the unsuspecting Native Americans, scattering men, women, and children and hunting them down. The casualties reflect the one-sided nature of the fight. Nine of Chivington’s men were killed; 148 of Black Kettle’s followers were slaughtered, more than half of them women and children. The Colorado volunteers returned and killed the wounded, mutilated the bodies, and set fire to the village.
The atrocities committed by the soldiers were initially praised, but then condemned as the circumstances of the massacre emerged. Chivington resigned from the military and aborted his budding political career. Black Kettle survived and continued his peace efforts. In 1865, his followers accepted a new reservation in Indian Territory, that would someday become Oklahoma.
In the aftermath of Sand Creek, federal investigations and military inquiry took place. Dozens of eyewitnesses provided testimony. Taken in Washington D.C., Denver City, Fort Lyon, and other locations, officers, soldiers, and civilians came forth. Shortly, two differing stories – one portraying a bloodthirsty and repulsive massacre and the other describing a well-deserved victory – began to emerge:
So what became of the Cheyenne and Arapaho? They are still alive and may have found a new home in Oklahoma Indian Territory, setting about healing and moving on from Sand Creek. Some of them are very much into keeping their language and culture alive, and to use that as a means to recover from multiple generations of historical trauma.
I would like you to meet (from left to right) Katelynn Pipestem, Chief Gordon Yellowman, and Winnie Whitetail Mendivil. They are tribal members and all contributors to the Medicine Mural and addiction recovery programs at the George Hawkins Memorial Treatment Center in Clinton, Oklahoma. They are the community stakeholders whose traditional knowledge and courage made for an amazing cultural contribution to the world of architecture.
Nearly five years ago, the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal leadership chose to invest and expand its tribal substance abuse program. Addiction to drugs and alcohol had gotten to crisis levels for the tribe, along with suicide, domestic violence, and other destructive outcomes. At the heart of this was the deep and lasting sadness of a people murdered and mutilated in Colorado so many years ago, moved to foreign soils, and left to figure out a new path forward. This is a place with low attainment of education and employment. Many are dependent on welfare and social programs serving poor and low-income families.
Being still connected to their culture and traditions, they chose to work with Blue Star given our track record of cultural respectful placemaking and design. By listening and learning about the history of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people, we were able to create a beautiful mural based off an initial sketch from Chief Yellowtail.
The colors of the Medicine Mural each hold meaning. White, or tsévó'kómo represents purification, related to ceremony and rituals of the Cheyenne and Arapaho. Yellow, tséheóvo, represents the Sun, the giver of life and energy. The blue, tséotá'távo, incorporated into the mural represents both the Sky and the Water. That which is red, tsémá'o, signifies the blood of the People, and also represents the Day. The black, tsémo'kôhtávo, represents the night and Grandmother Moon. Green, Éhoxo'ôhtsévo, makes up the middle of the mural wall and represents growth, healing, as well as medicine and vegetation. Lastly, the pink, Éma'óma'ôhtsévo, symbolizes transformation, like that of the sky at sunset. Together, these colors create a reminder to anyone that enters the treatment center: You've come so far; this isn't the end. This is a new beginning for you.
This story was initially featured as a Pecha Kucha presentation by Blue Star President Scott Moore y Medina at the Structures for Inclusion 2022 conference at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. The Medicine Mural for the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes' George Hawkins Memorial Treatment Center was highlighted as one of the exhibits on showcase in the Design for the Common Good exhibition that began on January 14 and will conclude March 19.
To hear more from Cheyenne Chief Gordon Yellowman, Director of the Substance Abuse Program Winnie White Tail Mendivil, and Art Therapist & Counselor Technician Katelynn Pipestem, who will join Scott in a panel for the Design for the Common Good Conversations event, please join the livestream on Saturday, March 19, 2022 at 12 p.m. EST by using this LINK.
Blue Star Integrative Studio is honored to be working with the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma to design the expansion and renovation of the Hope & Recovery Center in White Eagle, Oklahoma. This residential treatment facility serves those seeking to win their battles with substance abuse, and it provides much-needed support to those within a historically underserved community. Blue Star worked side by side with Tribal leaders and program directors to deeply listen, design, and responsively represent Ponca culture and colors throughout the facility.
One of the ways to accomplish this culturally-responsive project was Blue Star seeking out and enlisting artist and activist Jeremy Fields, Founder of Thrive Unlimited. Jeremy (Pawnee | Apsáalooke | Chickasaw) is a wellness educator driven by a passion for empowering Indigenous people to heal and prosper while amplifying the narrative of self-determination. Fields was tasked with creating a mural in the commons room for the Hope & Recovery Center. He started his research by reaching out to traditional Ponca people he knew from his PowWow days and other cultural gatherings and drew inspiration from the Fancy Dance World Championships held in the region each year. Jeremy fondly recalled times spent with his father dancing (both were fancy dancers in their younger years), and it was a stage in Jeremy’s life when he felt most alive and at his best spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. He chose the image of the Fancy Dancer to represent strength, clarity and vibrancy of living a good life - hopefully an inspiration to those working to put their lives back together at the Hope & Recovery Center. Rooted in historical, cultural, and personal history, Jeremy’s fancy dancer mural is a fitting addition to this regional facility helping Native men and women who find comfort and healing in this space.
Daniel Sherron, the Health Services Director for the Tribe, said of the mural: “Those in alcohol and drug situations need constant reassurance and focus on well-being in a variety of aspects. In addition to the physical state one must be in to perform this dance, cultural connection and honoring of tradition can be huge catalysts for those attempting to change their lives and seek direction. I very much appreciate the artwork and our people are home of the World Championship (of fancy dance), something we are all proud of.”
We look forward to the ribbon cutting for this important facility – stay tuned for details!
In the following video, you’ll learn more about the beautiful mural completed by Jeremy, hear his story and motivation, and better understand the value of art in healing environments.
Wihblaho | Miigwetch | Mvto | Wopila | Gracias | Thank you
Blue Star Integrative Studio is growing, and we are excited to welcome a new interior designer to the team. Adrianna McCarty is the newest employee at Blue Star, and she brings with her a wealth of knowledge and over 17 years of experience. Adrianna graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design from Texas Christian University. In the years since she has honed her skills in projects ranging from medical facilities and sports facilities to educational spaces.
Adrianna is a team player and is well-versed in working alongside architectural and engineering teams to deliver the best possible results for clients. While adhering to client budgets and maintaining the efficiency of space, she brings creativity to each project. That holistic approach is precisely what the culture of Blue Star encourages: a practice of listening, hearing, understanding, and then implementing the needs and desires of each client.
We are also excited that Adrianna is bringing her desire to share knowledge and experience with others. In addition to managing projects from the ground up, Adrianna enjoys mentoring junior interiors designers to develop their skills. Welcome to the Blue Star team, Adrianna! We are thrilled to have you on board.
There have been so many inquiries about our carbon calculator work that we wanted to explain how we get at the total impact of a building, including the supply chain of the occupant company.
Below is a calculator specifically for the farm-to-customer value chain (kudos to our colleague Kumar Venkat for crafting of this calculator), as you would find with buildings with a restaurant or cafe. To get a complete picture of the carbon footprint, you have to take into account the GIG sources at the farm level. You have to understand the transportation network, looking at both modes of travel (truck, ship, etc) as well as all the nodes (various stopping points). You have to understand the processing energy, whether that's in packaging, cooking, or at restaurant level. The calculator charts the impacts in different areas, and allows you to adjust distance, amount, and the amount of waste (which has ripple effects up the supply-chain)
Please play around and see how footprint changes as you change the scenario.
Restaurants. Beyond the experience of a good meal, many of us don’t think about everything behind the scenes that goes into the meal, even when we have a practice of gratitude and/or prayer that causes us to pause before diving in.
Envision in your mind the whole sequence of events behind your meal. There are all the supplies and materials used at the farm and/or fishery level ("where did your food come from?"), there’s the energy for processing and packaging, there’s the transportation to get from processing to restaurant, there’s the energy used at the restaurant itself, and then there are outputs: fed people, paid restaurant workers and food waste.
Sustainable Restaurant Group came together out of a shared goal of maximizing the benefits all these events, supply-chain relationships and resource uses. When they came to us to help them figure out their impacts, we were only too happy to assist, because we could see they had real integrity around what they were trying to do. One big concern of theirs is greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their related climate effects. As it turns out, there is a well-established process for what is referred to as “greenhouse gas accounting” to collect the gallons of fuel, the kWh of electricity, the miles traveled by truck or boat, and other relevant numbers, and convert that into climate impact. What we looked at: farm-level and fishing fleet GHG, transportation from fishery and farm to port, transport from port to Portland, refrigeration energy in transport, fugitive refrigerant emissions during transport, transport of other supplies (like wine and rice and vinegar), and energy use at the restaurant.
Here are the results. (And watch the comments below for the forthcoming Fast Company article about them and our work!)
Our staff have been conducting greenhouse gas inventories for over 10 years. It’s a key part of our Pacific Coast practice in green business and green building evaluation.
Ultimately, the goal is to inform smart business strategy around what we see as climate risks and responsibilities. If you look, the vast bulk of companies understand that climate change is something to which they need to pay attention, like any other business risk. It’s a clear risk whether they care about what customers think and want, what they expect regulators to do in any area of the world in which they do business, or whether they’re worried about upsets in their supply chain. The responsibility, then, is not only to communities and the world at large, but also shareholders in responsibly running the business.
This is exactly why our tag line says "environmental excellence" as well as "quality design” and "smart community building”. We see all this work as connected, focusing on building healthy communities in right relationship to the land, whether we’re master planning with rural and tribal communities or helping urban businesses improve their relationship with the surrounding living systems. A challenge in that, quite honestly, is being able to do different types of work very well . . . and we strive to bring together diverse teams to accomplish just that.
In any event, next time you’re in Portland, check out the sushi! And know the people behind it are being very intentional about how your meal gets to you in the best possible way.
B Corporations (or B Corps for short) are those companies certified to hold to a standard of social and environmental responsibility. Inc Magazine called it the “highest standard for socially responsible businesses”. The standard has been available since 2007 and there are currently only 2,000 B Corporations across 50 countries, including leaders like New Belgium Brewery, Ben and Jerry’s, Kickstarter, Etsy, and Seventh Generation.
We are pleased to have achieved the status of first B Corp in Oklahoma, as well as Indian Country (as far as we know), as, for one, we see many commonalities between B Corp and Native ways of thinking.
"The B Corp movement is one of the most important of our lifetime, built on the simple fact that business impacts and serves more than just shareholders—it has an equal responsibility to the community and to the planet”, said Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia. And the New York Times said “B Corp provides what is lacking elsewhere: proof” - proof that companies engage in great practices for employees, suppliers, customers, their local community and the environment.
What does this mean for those we work with? We held to these standards before certification, treating with care those we work with, and we’ll do so afterwards. You just get extra verification that we’re on the right track, whether for your own mission and goals around supplier and customer relationships, or for any other drivers you have to work with responsible companies.
To learn more about our new status, visit the B Corp website at https://www.bcorporation.net/community/blue-star-integrative-studio