In late-August, a contingent of Arapahoe County commissioners and staff traveled to Wind River, WY to meet with the Northern Arapaho Business Council and their colleagues, touring the community and discussing how to advance the newly formalized relationship between the County and the Northern Arapaho Tribe.
This was the County’s first official visit to the area since the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Tribe this past June, and an early success for the Board’s work around advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. The MOA identifies ways the County can work with the Northern Arapaho around objectives such as increasing awareness of and education about the Northern Arapaho culture and the concerns facing modern Native peoples; establishing events and commemorations around historical incidents such as the Sand Creek Massacre; coordinating advocacy efforts that publicize Arapaho Tribal issues; and welcoming Tribal representation at appropriate County events and ceremonies.
Numerous County employees participated in the internal and external focus groups and educational efforts over the past year that assessed how the County logo is perceived by our employees and by the community at large. One of the outcomes of this research was the focus groups’ agreement that the logo, and any potential changes to it, should be executed in consultation with the Northern Arapaho.
This resulted in a provision in the MOA that stipulates that the County will respectfully represent the Arapaho people in written, digital and visual contexts. One of the agenda items for the meeting was to confirm the Tribe’s perspective about the County logo. The Northern Arapaho Business Council affirmed that they view the County logo as a respectful depiction that appropriately honors the Tribe’s history and sacrifices. “[We] don’t see any issues with the logo,” said Business Council co-chairman Stephen Fast Horse at the meeting with the Board of County Commissioners. “It’s a proper way to remember who we are, and that it depicts a chief is even better,” because it showcases one of a tribe’s most respected members.
Tribal elder Eugene Ridgely, who helped redesign the Strasburg High School logo, echoed this, saying logos such as Strasburg’s and the County’s, when respectfully executed, honor the people the imagery represents and helps preserve their history and culture in ways that enhance Native peoples’ pride in their heritage.
It’s in this spirit that the County will continue to review all our brand standards moving forward. Some respectful controls—such as forbidding the use of the Native American head image without the County word mark—are already in place. But County leadership recognizes that tastes and opinions can change and that we should remain open and nimble about these issues.
Fast Horse went on to stress that executing all the objectives in the MOA are most important to ensuring that the relationship is productive. “As a Council, so long as we have these MOAs as a way to recognize each other, that’s the most important thing for us,” he said.
In addition to this discussion, the meeting also explored how the County can support the Tribe during the upcoming Sand Creek Healing Run in October, participate in the opening of the Sand Creek exhibit at History Colorado in November, raise awareness around the Sand Creek Massacre via a resolution commemorating the anniversary of the incident, and other ways to nurture the relationship. For example, the County invited the Northern Arapaho to attend the 2023 Fair and to be on hand for a grand re-opening of Cheyenne-Arapaho Park once construction is complete.
“All of us at the County are delighted to see this formalizing of our relationship come to fruition after we first connected with the Tribe in 2021,” said BOCC Chair Nancy Jackson. “It was particularly special for us to be able to visit the Northern Arapaho at their home after the MOA ratified an important step toward strengthening the County’s partnership with the Tribe that recognizes the Northern Arapaho as the people who originally inhabited the land on which the County now sits.”
After the Business Council meeting, the County delegation toured part of the vast Wind River reservation, viewing numerous projects, visiting historical sites, and meeting with community members, students and faculty at an area high school. Throughout the visit, the hosts frequently stressed their desire to do what they can to ensure a brighter future for their young people, and the Board is committed to helping achieve these goals.
“Given the Arapaho Tribe’s long and rich history in our region, we thought it was appropriate and in the public interest to expand this partnership,” Commissioner Jackson said. “We enjoyed getting to know our new friends personally, to learn more about their history and culture, and to find ways to make this alliance as prosperous as we can. We’re thrilled to be able to start this exciting new chapter.”
As we move into this new phase of the County’s very promising relationship with the Northern Arapaho people, our leadership will identify ways that County employees can get more involved with nurturing the partnership.