“People seeing the beauty of this valley will stay, and their staying will be the undoing of its beauty.” – Chief Niwot’s Curse
Chief Left Hand, or Niwot, was a chief of the Southern Arapaho when gold seekers began to arrive in 1859. His tribe over-wintered in the shelter of the Left Hand Valley.
Niwot’s older sister, MaHom (Snake Woman) married a white trader named John Poisal. Growing up in a multi-lingual world, Niwot became proficient in Arapaho, English, Cheyenne, and Lakota, making him indispensable as a translator.
Chief Niwot realized early on that the only way his people would survive was by adapting to a changing world. He was an unrelenting advocate of peace. Despite his best efforts, Left Hand’s band was slaughtered at the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864.
Those of us who have prospered by Chief Niwot’s generosity owe it to him to preserve the beauty and ecology of the valley he once called home and to change the trajectory of his alleged curse.
Plaque from Niwot sculpture garden.
Look for Chief Left Hand by Margaret Coel for a full biography of Chief Niwot.