LITTLETON | Arapahoe County signed an agreement with the namesake Native American tribe on Tuesday, under which the two governments will work more closely on lobbying, cultural exchanges, education, and other joint priorities.
The memorandum of agreement was signed by Nancy Jackson of the Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners as well as tribal elder Ben Ridgley from the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming.
“It’s an honor to be here to do this historical signing,” Ridgley 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.”
The Arapaho tribe was among the largest native tribes that occupied current-day Arapahoe County, along with the Cheyenne. Prior to Colorado becoming a state, Arapahoe County made up much of the land stretching from the foothills to western Kansas.
Today, the county is made up of 13 cities and towns, including Aurora, the third largest municipality in the state.
“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,” Jackson said.
According to a county news release, while reviewing diversity policies, commissioners in 2020 directed county staff to look into whether the county had a partnership with the tribe. They found their existing partnership was “limited in scope and hadn’t been reaffirmed for about 20 years.”
The signing ceremony was followed by a flag-raising prayer and ceremony outside of the County Administration Building in Littleton. Commissioners plan to visit the Northern Arapaho’s home in Wyoming, and the county will participate in the Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run later this year, which the release credited to the new partnership.