The University of Colorado’s Early History
Before Thomas Jefferson signed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and before Colorado became a state in 1876, the area was settled by numerous Native American tribes, predominantly inhabited by the Arapaho. The Arapaho were successful nomadic hunters, expanding their presence through trade, warfare, and alliances with other tribes. They were closely allied with the Cheyenne, which allowed their hunting territory to expand greatly and made them a formidable force. Much of their culture revolved around the idea of a warrior, which included not only skills in combat, but also in keeping peace, and in providing food and wealth for their families. In addition, the Arapaho had military societies with unique initiation rites. Much of the military rites were jovial in nature, consisting of ceremonies, songs, and regalia. In the mid 19th century, the Arapaho and other tribes began to battle with the US army over the land, resulting in the Sand Creek Massacre, the Battle of Little Bighorn, and finally culminating in the Indian Wars in the late 1870s, which saw the Native Americans defeat and dispatch to smaller reservations. Some artifacts and further historical information can be found at the History Museum of Boulder on Euclid Road.
Colorado’s immigration history is unique as well, and was effected by its mining, agricultural, and tourism industries. Coal Mining was a huge industry at the time, with over 100 coal mines in the Denver and Boulder areas. In the mid 19th century, a wave of immigrants entered Colorado, drawn by the 1859 Pikes Peak Gold Rush and the mining, farming, and railroad industries that the state offered. Many of the workers were Scandinavians, Irish, and Scots who immigrated hoping to make a better life for themselves and their families. However, the work was exceedingly dangerous and workers joined together to form unions, which helped catalyze the Colorado Labor Wars. Later, many German, Italian, and Russian immigrants were hired to replace striking workers during the labor wars in the early 20th century. Much of Colorado’s earliest industries would not have been successful without the immigrant labor force that helped made it possible.
The University of Colorado, Boulder was established on March 14th, 1876 and opened its door in 1877. It has been named one of the most beautiful colleges in the United States and is known for its excellent research facilities and engineering programs. It is also known for being one of the best colleges for overall well-being, with a vast amount of outdoor activities to choose from including skiing, rock climbing, and hiking. The University also has a long-standing dedication to environmental sustainability. In 2005 the student body voted to dedicate a portion of student fees to implement on-campus projects, such as incorporating renewable energy, energy efficiency, recycling and waste reduction, and other innovative projects to reduce campus impact on climate and environment. Many of the buildings on campus are ‘Green Buildings’, which earn the title by using a minimum of nonrenewable energy, produce minimal pollution, and use a minimum of dollars, while increasing the comfort, health, and safety of the people who work in them. In addition, in the 1970s a group of students started the Environmental Center, which still exists today. It is dedicated to alternative transportation, recycling, clean energy, and earth education. It also has a variety of environmental student groups attached to it including, the CU SEED project, Student to Farm, Environmental Law Society, the Rainforest Action Group, and many more.
The University also has a renowned Natural History Museum, with exhibits including an anthropological hall which currently features hand woven baskets made by Native Americans, and a biolounge which features a whimsically titled, ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, which recently displayed the First Folio of Shakespeare’s work. Literature majors will rejoice as the pages were opened to one of Shakespeare’s most famous play, Hamlet, featuring the iconic “To be or Not to Be” speech. And clearly, here in Colorado and the University, is the place to be.