On June 28, representatives from the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming and the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) signed a historic memorandum of agreement (MOA) formalizing the relationship between the Tribe and the County. The signing ceremony was followed by a flag-raising prayer and ceremony outside the County Administration Building in Littleton.
The County has been working with the Northern Arapaho for more than a year on formalizing the relationship between the two entities. While reviewing and enhancing the County’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies in 2020, the BOCC instructed staff to determine if the County had a partnership with the Tribe, and when it had been established. The directive was in keeping with the County’s Strategic Plan values of promoting inclusivity and nurturing cultural connectedness. Staff determined that the relationship with the Tribe was limited in scope and hadn’t been reaffirmed for about 20 years. The BOCC approved the process of reaching out to the Tribe and, over time, created a new memorandum of agreement that will guide future collaboration.
“We’ve been wanting to establish better ties with descendants of our area’s original inhabitants for some time, and this agreement increases communication and offers more opportunities for all of us to work together on any number of issues,” said Arapahoe County Board Chair Nancy Jackson.
The approved MOA establishes a partnership that will, among other things, make it easier to:
- Conduct cultural exchanges
- Provide and share comprehensive educational opportunities around the Tribe’s and Arapahoe County’s history
- Honor Tribal contributions and sacrifices
- Consult with the Arapaho about visual representations of the County and its history
- Provide County advocacy around legislative issues that affect Native American peoples
- Collaborate to establish Tribal representation at County events, where appropriate
At the signing ceremony, Tribal elder Ben Ridgley spoke of the Arapaho’s long history in the region and the importance of honoring the land where Arapahoe County sits. “It’s an honor to be here to do this historical signing,” he said. “We know from our oral histories that this is our ancestral land, and also our homeland, so it’s very meaningful to be here at this moment.”
Among the near-term activities this agreement will produce is a visit by the BOCC to the Northern Arapaho’s home in Wyoming and the County’s participation in the Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run later this year.