November is a time for reflection, remembrance, and respect as we honor Native
American History Month. It’s a time to recognize and celebrate the vibrant culture, history, and
contributions of the indigenous peoples who have called North America home for thousands of
years and still do. Today, we turn our attention to the South Platte River, a waterway with a deep and
enduring connection to the Native American communities that have shaped its history.
The South Platte River, which flows through Denver, is a vital waterway that has played
a crucial role in the history and development of the area. Its waters have quenched the thirst of
countless settlers and provided sustenance to the people who called this land home long before
Denver became a city. For the native tribes in the region, the river has always been more than
just a source of water – it is a symbol of life.
The South Platte River basin was historically home to several Native American tribes,
each with their own unique customs, languages, and ways of life. Among these were the
Arapaho, Cheyenne, and the Ute tribes, who were closely connected to the land and the river.
These indigenous communities relied on the South Platte River’s waters for their survival,
cultivating crops and sustaining their way of life through fishing and hunting.
The Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes in particular, have deep ties to what is now the Denver area. The
Cheyenne people, who called themselves the Tsitsistas, are known for their Plains culture and
strong sense of community. They were historically nomadic, following the bison herds that
roamed the South Platte region. The Arapaho, known as the Hinono’ei, were also closely
associated with the river. Their territory encompassed vast areas of Colorado, Wyoming, and
Nebraska, and the South Platte River was central to their way of life. They, too, relied on its
waters for sustenance and engaged in extensive trade networks.
As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month and recognize the historical
significance of the South Platte River to the native tribes who inhabited the region, it is important
to acknowledge the contributions of these indigenous communities. Their knowledge of the land
and their deep connection to nature provide invaluable lessons in sustainability and environmental
As an organization that aims to enhance the South Platte River, we strive to honor this
history by fostering a deep appreciation for the land, its resources, and the cultures that have
been shaped by it. By recognizing the past, we can work towards a more inclusive and
The South Platte River in Denver, Colorado stands as a testament to the enduring
legacy of Native American history. It has witnessed both the triumphs and tragedies of
indigenous communities and remains a vital aspect of the city’s landscape. This Native
American History Month, let us reflect on the rich heritage of the South Platte River and the indigenous peoples who call it home, and let us commit to preserving and protecting this land for generations to come.
And to celebrate, check out some of the events happening in Colorado this month! https://www.cpr.org/2023/11/03/native-american-heritage-month-events-in-colorado/