Aurora Council rejects Native American land acknowledgment: ‘This is God’s country.’

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Sand Creek Run participant Joseph Alberts, left, gets blessed by Crawford White Sr., an Arapahoe Tribe elder, during a sunrise gathering marking the 150th year since the Sand Creek Massacre, at Riverside Cemetery, in Denver, Wednesday Dec. 3, 2014. Denver’s oldest cemetery is the resting place for U.S. Army Capt. Silas Soule, a hero to many Native Americans, who was one of two U.S. Army officers who refused to fire on the Native American families killed at the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

AURORA | Conservative lawmakers on Monday rejected the idea of introducing city events with an acknowledgment  that Aurora was established on former Native American lands, invoking God and gripes with the language of the statement.

While Councilmember Crystal Murillo said the statement would “show a sign of respect to our indigenous community,” Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky said she wouldn’t support a land acknowledgment unless the group would “also acknowledge that this is actually God’s country.”

“That’s the only way I’m going to in any way, shape or form be for this,” Jurinsky said.

She also questioned staffers about the size of the city’s three-person Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“I am adamantly against this, and if we have an entire department working on things like this, like I said, unless we’re going to acknowledge that this is God’s country, I can’t even believe this is coming to City Council tonight,” she said.

Land acknowledgments have been adopted by cities across Colorado and the U.S. as a way of recognizing the unique relationship between indigenous Americans and the lands they inhabited before the arrival of European settlers.

Acknowledging the historical relationship between tribes such as the Arapaho and the lands they once controlled may encourage members of the public to research Colorado’s colonial past, said Lee Spoonhunter, a member and former chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council.

“I welcome it. The land of Colorado — all of the way from Lamar, to Denver, to Estes Park and Fort Collins — that’s our ancestral homeland,” Spoonhunter told The Sentinel on Monday. “I truly believe that more education and awareness of how we lived in those homelands helps everyone understand how far we’ve come in America’s history.”

But land acknowledgments have also been criticized as performative, doing little on their own to right the wrongs done to native communities. Others, including some Aurora council members, have described the statements as potentially inflammatory.

Angel McKinley-Paige — manager of Aurora’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — brought Aurora’s proposed land acknowledgment  to a council policy committee in June, where Juan Marcano and Ruben Medina voiced their support.

McKinley-Paige said at the time that the statement was drafted by her office, the Library and Cultural Services Department, Aurora History Museum and indigenous groups as “a really great way to ensure equity:”

The City of Aurora acknowledges that we gather on the territories and ancestral homelands of the Cheyenne, Ute, Arapaho and Lakota peoples, past and present. We also recognize the 48 contemporary tribal nations that are historically tied to the lands that make up the State of Colorado. Indigenous people have remained committed to the stewardship of this land over many centuries.

As these words of acknowledgment  are spoken and heard, the ties that these nations have to their traditional homelands and to their vital place in the ecosystem are renewed and reaffirmed, and we are called to be better stewards of the land we inhabit as we continue to work to meet the needs of our entire community.

The statement would be read at the start of select council meetings and at major city events. But on Monday, a majority of council members said they opposed the item moving out of study session, meaning it will not be brought to a regular meeting for a vote automatically and is likely to fail if a council member pushes for a vote regardless.

Councilmembers Francoise Bergan and Angela Lawson both expressed discomfort with the language of the acknowledgment . Bergan said she thought the description of land as “stolen” from Native Americans was divisive, though the word “stolen” did not appear in the final text of the acknowledgment .

Lawson also said she did not understand why the city would reflect on the conquest of Native American land in particular rather than conquest in general.

“Land has been conquered from all racial groups, and that’s where I’m struggling with this,” Lawson said. She did not detail which land or groups she referred to. “It seems like this could be kind of divisive in a way.”

Sara Valencich of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion said the acknowledgment  was meant to specifically recognize the groups that once called the area of Aurora home, and that the statement was “our way of simply acknowledging that the land that we live and work on was originally stewarded by individuals centuries and centuries ago.”

“Centuries and centuries ago, that’s God,” Jurinsky replied.

Councilmember Alison Coombs criticized Jurinsky for her remarks, saying what she suggested adding to the acknowledgment  would infringe on the separation of church and state. She and Marcano, Medina and Murillo all said they supported introducing the acknowledgment .

Medina said he participates in an international meeting twice a month with attendees from Australia, England and Germany who routinely acknowledge the indigenous history of their countries.

“It’s just respecting the past,” Medina said. “It’s not specific to the United States. It’s something that’s going on worldwide.”

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Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago

It’s just more vacuous virtue signaling from the socialist warriors (intended) on the council.

Shouldn’t the proclamation have included the violent conflicts between indigenous tribes that preceded the first European settlers? Shouldn’t it also include the savage rapes and murders of white settlers? Shouldn’t sponsor Murillo deed her home back to those she “stole” her land from? So much hypocrisy. So much empty wokeness.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

The answer to all your questions is “no.” You’re just going out of your way to be negative and hateful.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Why not, other than being a world-class hypocrite?

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
1 month ago

“Settlers”? You mean invaders and thieves, don’t you?

Thomas J Richardson
Thomas J Richardson
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Ryan

It’s history. Broken treatise, the slaughter and rape of people and lands. Still today in Oklahoma broken treatise ot the Wasi’chu.
Native history suck at time but we teach the truth because it is the truth. When you put the Colorado pioneers license plates on you cars, you are Wasi’chu.
The short word is easier invader. Been here less that 500 years never kept a treaty stealing it

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Ryan

When are you giving up your house on the land you stole and moving back to the land of your ancestors, white boy?

Thomas J Richardson
Thomas J Richardson
1 month ago

We have always taught of our wars and history of slavery for thousands of years on these lands.Natives have taught hard truth to learn from mistakes of your people.
The European people that came were never invited to come so they were invaders just like the immigrants coming to or Southern border are called by you.
The settlers had scalp bounties on natives (Sand Creek)(Oklahoma)(Trail of tears)
Yea they were hunted down and raped and murdered in kind because they were invading more land. Parading in downtown Denver with scalps and heads of women and children old people.
Immigration has only been legal here since 1875
Our people have had feet on the ground for 30 generations, how about you.
By the way Murillo owns here home on native land here mission accomplished.
Theres your wokeness in facts or alternative facts
Bless your heart
And clutch your pearls
Because history is history not you kind one to your ancestors.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

You’ll note that Danielle is again running off the mouth about things she has no clue about

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

“Land acknowledge” all you want, on the condition that you and every other white leftist gives up their home and moves back to the land of their ancestors, so you can sleep peacefully knowing your inherently sinful white skin isn’t polluting the stolen land anymore.

Nunya
Nunya
1 month ago

OK. Sounds good to me. You come too, since you’re obviously an unapologetic colonizer. I don’t think you realize you don’t have a leg to stand on buddy. Or maybe you do, and so you just say “God” is holding you up. Either way, you’re squatting on stolen land bub

Thomas J Richardson
Thomas J Richardson
1 month ago
Reply to  Nunya

They are Wasi’chu

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
1 month ago
Reply to  Nunya

It’s called Law of Conquest, bub, and it’s as old as humanity.

Den Voran
1 month ago

Yes, land acknowledgements tend to be performative. The third-most populous county in Colorado and the county in which most Aurorans live is called ARAPAHOE County – what more of a land acknowledgment can you get? If the Business Council prefers the spelling without the ‘e’, then let’s change it to Arapaho County. Other names could be changed as well – as Far East Aurora develops, boring and placeless street names like 26th Avenue and 56th Avenue could be given Native American names. There could also be a Soule Street to honor the U.S. Army Captain. These existing/new place names are/would be permanent acknowledgements, attached to actual land – obviating the need for vapid, performative meeting openers.

Omen Cross
Omen Cross
1 month ago

What a rediculous topic. Is this the kind of fruitless nonsense that the Council seeks to debate? The same week that they discussed a program at attempting to “educate” people against choosing to be kind, we get disrespect of the heritage of the land Aurora was founded upon? How is it there’s time to talk about how to pass laws to make the city’s residents less kind and more confrontational towards one another, but no time to discuss how we got to this point?

I am offended that the Council has returned to a bunch of spoiled brats, bickering over which things they can legally get away with doing and not call it harming the community. There are so many reasons left to Hope for what a City as diverse and beautiful as Aurora can be. Stifled by Arrogance, Stupidity, and selfish Evil.

But while that may be the present word, it is not the only one. For putting God’s Name in your mouth as an excuse to discriminate against actual events in time is blasphemous. For those who truly believe, such blasphemy is intolerable. Especially from someone who considers themselves such an expert on what God would say.

Thus I guess as such, as Leonardo would say, “It’s time to go back”. We shall see if those afraid of even my name will blaspheme God’s in my presence.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago
Reply to  Omen Cross

Omen, how’s your mayoral campaign shaping up? I assume you are still running, as you promised.

Omen Cross
Omen Cross
1 month ago

What i will say is I’m in a much better place now than I was when I first met most of the people in town, including the Council. A story of the actual tangible good that is being done in the Metro, despite the words and actions of people like the Mayor. All things I intend to share with the people of the City directly as much as I am capable. As to the future, it is the people of Aurora who will decide what is best for them. All I can do in this moment is carry on.

Susan
Susan
1 month ago

One more reason for me to be embarrassed to tell anyone I live in Aurora. This shameless disregard of the past and lack of respect for this land or the Indigenous people, is yet another example of the cluelessness and insensitivity of many of our city councilors. And the audacity (or stupidity) to bring God into the conversation is more proof.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan

Give up your home and move back across the Atlantic.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
1 month ago

any group “led” by Coffman will never work as a team, be able to problem solve, or show any caring response or know how to respond in a respectful way no matter the decision. Council will always be divided in ways that are dysfunctional because Coffman is such and wants it to be that way, he can put the blame on others, distract and deflect from his inability to lead, manage, or innovate.

DICK MOORE
1 month ago

Well Debra, I use your exact words to define our Socialists on Council. One of us is right. The Mayor has been a proven leader his whole life so I’m personally sure you don’t get it and just have hatred in your heart for the Mayor, and little else to offer.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
1 month ago

Yes, Debra, we realize that anything which resists your side is “divisive.” You people haven’t come up with any new arguments in that regard since “Counterrevolution and Revolt.”

Bob
Bob
1 month ago

In the meantime, as council fiddles Rome burns….

Mike Flanagan
Mike Flanagan
1 month ago

So many distractions from the true matter under discussion. And “God’s country”? Whose god? Morons.

DICK MOORE
1 month ago

Just more hatred brought up by the Socialists on Council. Same story over and over. The Socialists bring up something meaningless to the Council. Danielle and the conservatives say it is meaningless out loud. The Sentinel writes that it’s all Danielle’s fault and that the meaningless idea has great merit and the Socialists start all over on a new meaningless idea.

See this, citizens of Aurora, you and I must vote out the Socialists on City Council to bring back safety, sanity and a positive lifestyle to the City of Aurora.

Publius
Publius
1 month ago

I would not have ranked this in importance to come before council any higher than item #79356. I recall no public clamoring to address this issue, no public discussion of it at all. My prediliction would be that coucnil spend its time addressing our crumbling streets, our needs for water, provision of responsible and reliable public safety services, responsible development, blight, homelessness, mass transportation and park and recreation amenities . If and when those matters are addressed they can address matters such as this.

I appreciate others view matters differently and place higher value on symbolism than do I.

Nunya
Nunya
1 month ago

God’s country, so God’s favorite people, white people, can continue to rape and pillage it for resources and screw over native inhabitants who were also raped and pillaged to remove them from… God’s Land.

I mean, if you wanna call it God’s Land after all that, you’re basically calling God a genociding maniac. Little on the nose?

Don
Don
1 month ago
Reply to  Nunya

How much raping and pillaging did they do to each other before the arrival of a different people?

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
1 month ago
Reply to  Don
Thomas J Richardson
Thomas J Richardson
1 month ago

This going to be an education for you “Wasi’chu” look up the term. When did natives decide that this was now your Gods country when were here 1200 years before you?
Legal immigration here wasn’t till 1885 everything before was an invasion of Europeans and after they decided no one owned anything (because no one owned land)
Natives have been here more than 3000 years
My people in the 4 corners for 2000 years
We have learned of the many battles our people took slaves and wiped out other tribes, and still speak of them.
Pine Ridge, The trail of tears, Sand Creek massacre and many more atrocities.
Col Chivington riding his troops thru downtown Denver with the scalps and heads of babies,children and old people for bounty money.(any of your relatives involved? )
Murillo has no “stolen” land because unlike you she is Indigenous and 3000 years later still living on red (colorado) land. Colorado in Spanish is red color. Having pioneer settler license plates doesn’t clean up what your relatives did to take this land.CRT lol dont be scared of your crappy family history. We all have something as people there. It will be taught.History is truth, not what you only believe
It’s hard to live together when you don’t honor any of the treatise that your forefathers signed to trick them onto reservations that if became valuable was stolen back from them.
No hate here just history

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
1 month ago

Murillo, like most Indo-Hispanics, is mestizo, not indigenous. And as to history, it’s obvious you’d never want to confront the violence that your own people committed on each other long before any wasi’chu set foot in the hemisphere.

Zedric Miller
Zedric Miller
1 month ago

Who is your god? And this ain’t Native Land. Native was not here Aboriginals where.

Honor ThePast
Honor ThePast
1 month ago

I guess some of the people commenting so viciously in this thread (and some of the council members voting against moving it forward) haven’t even bothered to read the actual text of the proposed land acknowledgement: “The City of Aurora acknowledges that we gather on the territories and ancestral homelands of the Cheyenne, Ute, Arapaho and Lakota peoples, past and present. We also recognize the 48 contemporary tribal nations that are historically tied to the lands that make up the State of Colorado. Indigenous people have remained committed to the stewardship of this land over many centuries. As these words of acknowledgment are spoken and heard, the ties that these nations have to their traditional homelands and to their vital place in the ecosystem are renewed and reaffirmed, and we are called to be better stewards of the land we inhabit as we continue to work to meet the needs of our entire community.”j

There, that wasn’t so painful, was it?

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
1 month ago
Reply to  Honor ThePast

All those words, and they don’t really mean squat in substance. It’s just a hot-air balloon to make the neo-marxists on the council feel good, without actually doing anything. A slacktivist statement for a slacktivist generation.

Omen Cross
Omen Cross
1 month ago

To end this particular point, the resolution we all expected from someone with a weak argument and less willpower. The day after the study sessions, long before most of these comments, Coffman turned on his colleagues and his own words and used a Mayor’s version of Executive Power to make the land acknowledgment a thing. He read it Monday to the best of his ability to read the words of it. This issue was resolved because people kept speaking out against it. If you want them to solve the others, guess that means everyone just has to get louder and more offended until they do.