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Native Americans

The first to gaze upon the majestic mountain now called Pikes Peak were nomadic hunters that traveled through the region thousands of years ago. Their quarry were the ancient bison and mammoth as well as smaller game such as antelope, deer, and rabbit. Like the later Plains Indians, these prehistoric peoples did not build permanent homes, but followed the big game over the land. Three cultures of these early wanderers have been identified from the artifacts that they left behind: Clovis (9000-1100 B.C.), Folsom (9000-7500 B.C.), and Plano (8200-5300 B.C.).

As a more settled, farming-based culture known as the Anasazi (Navajo for “enemy ancestors”) developed in southwestern Colorado during the first century A.D., the Pikes Peak Region continued to be visited by nomadic peoples. Sometime before 1300 A.D., as the Anasazi were abandoning their famous cliff dwellings, the Ute Indians moved into Colorado from the West. They would primarily inhabit the Rocky Mountains, although the introduction of the horse by the Spanish allowed them to hunt and raid far out onto the plains. Beginning in the early 1500s, Apache bands moved onto the High Plains of Colorado from the North. They were pushed out by the Comanches in the 1700s, who in turn were forced south of the Arkansas River by Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians a hundred years later.

Contact with Europeans had dramatic consequences for Native American culture. Flint knives and arrows were discarded for metal ones. Brass kettles replaced the buffalo stomach and heated stones for cooking. The horse, indispensable for hunting, raiding, and mobility, became a measure of wealth.

While Indian tribes were able to maintain their dominance in the Pikes Peak Region for the first half of the 19th century, the large influx of settlers following the discovery of gold on Cherry Creek in 1858 was the beginning of the end for their way of life. Most white settlers, hungry for land and eager to exploit the area’s resources, wanted the Indians out of the way. A succession of treaties and periodic outbreaks of warfare resulted in the removal of the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and the shrinking of vast Ute Indian lands to reservations in southwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah.