A Historic First: Longmont’s Newest Sister City – Northern Arapaho Tribe

Three years ago, a Longmont delegation has visited the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming to learn more about the Northern Arapaho Tribe. The delegation advocated for the creation of a new Longmont Sister City – the Northern Arapaho Tribe, which local leaders recall will be the first sister city relationship between a sovereign tribal nation and a U.S. city!

On Saturday, September 18th, 2021 at 3:00 PM, Longmont will commence a signing ceremony of the new sister city. The event will be held at the Longmont Museum, 400 Quail Road and is open to the public to celebrate the new relationship and culture of the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming.

A sister city is the creation of a partnership between two communities, and provides the chance to learn about different cultures and share opportunities. The tribe will mark Longmont’s third sister city, alongside Chino, Japan, and Ciudad Guzman, Mexico.

The Co-chairman of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, Lee Spoonhunter, said the sovereign tribal nation is “very excited” to become a sister city with Longmont.

“Most children unfortunately rarely have the opportunity to leave the reservation and to experience life outside the reservation. The children being able to go down to Longmont and partner with the sister cities and the children down there will be a great experience for our children to broaden their horizon and open their eyes to a bigger world than the Wind River Reservation,” said Spoonhunter.

He emphasizes that the new relationship will open doors for children on the reservation to get involved in educational opportunities that were not available for them such as robotics and aviation courses, and youth centers and musuems.

The reservation consists of the Northern Arapaho and Easern Shoshone tribes and is the nation’s largest with reservation at 2.2 million acres. The Northern Arapaho Tribe‘s ancestral homeland is in Colorado; however, the tribe was forced onto the reservation when an 1860s treaty left them without a land base. As a result, the Northern Arapaho Tribe turned to share the a reservation with the Shoshone tribe. Spoonhunter mentioned that several factors led to the tribe being forced out of Colorado, including when land was taken from the tribe during the gold rush.

The Board President for the Longmont Sister Cities Association, Janice Rebhan, said she was excited for the opportunities that the sister city relationship will create for Longmont youth to learn about the tribe’s customs and culture. This partnership will have youth exchanges that will allow children the chance to visit the reservation and vice versa.

“What’s important about this one is it’s the very first in the nation,” Rebhan said. “Nobody has attempted, or been successful, at creating a sister city between an indigenous or sovereign nation and a city, so this will be a first.”

Rebhan said she hopes that the relationship can be a step toward healing. “For the Longmont kids, Longmont families, the Longmont community, it’s a way to perhaps right some of the wrongs that were done in the past. If we can be more tolerant and understanding of each other, we can build a better future,” Rebhan said.

Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley pitched the idea to form a sister city relationship; however, it was a team effort with many other Longmont residents and council members, the sister cities board, and the tribe to make it happen. He hopes the partnership can lead to friendship and knowledge.

“The sister cities relationships are designed to help our youth and our cities understand one another: understand cultures, understand differences, understand similarities. In the case of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, there is a history of trauma and of rejection. This relationship, I hope, would serve everyone by helping people heal and move forward into the future,” said Bagley.

Gov. Jared Polis repealed two 157-year-old proclamations that were created by Gov. John Evans in 1864 with the intent of harming natives. The Denver Post reported that one decree required that “friendly Indians” go to certain camps, while natives that fought “the whites” had to be kept away “until they are effectively subdued.” The other proclamation asked Coloradans to use weapons to pursue “hostile Indians,” promising payment and keeping stolen property.

Spoonhunter attended the signing on Tuesday at the Capitol in Denver and added, “It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been waiting for this day and for them to correct this.”

“We have been so grateful to the Longmont organization and the city and everyone there that has been so nice to use over the years and really welcomed us back into our homeland,” Spoonhunter stated as he anticipates many opportunities from the Longmont sister city partnership.