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Why Grand Junction Should Be Celebrating Native American Day

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Only two states in the country recognize Monday, October 9 as Native American Day and here’s why Grand Junction should join them in the celebration.

California and South Dakota are the only states that officially recognize this as Native American Day. For the rest of the country, it’s known as Columbus Day. Tennessee and Nevada have each set aside a separate day to recognize native Americans.

In Colorado, Columbus Day is a legal state holiday, but the city of Boulder last year decided to declare an annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day, joining with more than a dozen other communities nationwide. Grand Junction should be one of those communities and here’s why.

The fact is, American Indians were the first people ever to settle in Mesa County. They are an integral part of our history.

According to Colorado Encyclopedia, there is evidence to suggest Paleo-Indians lived here as long as 11,000 years ago. As early as 1300 A.D., the Ute Indians settled here and remained here until being kicked out by the government in the 1880s.

There were two bands of Utes that called Mesa County home.The Parianuche spent their summers hunting game in the high country, including the Grand Mesa, and would reside in the Grand Valley during the winter.

The Tabeguache lived on the Uncompahgre Plateau and spent winters along the Gunnison River between present-day Grand Junction and Montrose.

There’s a lot more history about the Indians that roamed Western Colorado, and Mesa County residents would be well-served to read up on that history. It would give everyone a better perspective on how Mesa County came to be, and a much greater appreciation for the people who lived here before the white-man came on the scene.

Sure, Christopher Columbus, by most accounts, is an important part of U.S. history, but here in western Colorado, Native Americans are a huge part of our local history and deserve to be recognized and honored as our county’s  very first citizens.

BONUS VIDEO: Hiking to Catch the Big Fish on the Grand Mesa



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