Letter to the Editor: CSU, Hughes and Native American Heritage

Jordan Williams in the foothills. Photo courtesy of Jordan Williams.

This Letter to the Editor is solely the opinion of its author.

It does not reflect the opinion of this newspaper.

Jordan Williams

The day after Thanksgiving is listed on my Google Calendar as “Native American Heritage Day”, not “Black Friday” as it is frequently known. I believe this “Holiday in the US” (as Google categorizes it) is increasingly important as the powerful and privileged must reckon with the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday through the actuality of the #LANDBACK movement. This national day of recognition also falls in line with Colorado State University’s Native American Heritage Month. While I appreciate CSU recognizing Native Nations through their Land Acknowledgement statement and the work of the Native American Cultural Center, I believe it is time for this Fort Collins public institution “to put its money where its mouth is” and do more.

As highlighted by the work of CSU’s own educators and researchers, the foothills west of Fort Collins are very important to indigenous peoples, including the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Ute Nations, and others. While these Native tribes have been largely eradicated from their ancestral lands, building another modern housing development at the Hughes Stadium site that appears to generate no direct financial support for Native Nations does not seem to be a good way to acknowledge them. (Note: If CSU is actively supporting the #LANDBACK movement in some other way, I would love to learn more.)

Therefore, I feel that it is unethical for CSU to continue with their existing Site Plan Advisory Review (SPAR) process for the Hughes property. My understanding is that SPAR is intended for publicly owned and operated buildings and structures that will be retained for public use. But in this case CSU will profit from the sale of the land to a private developer, which will then be sold to private homeowners. By selling the land along these lines, CSU would be failing to live up to its own Land Acknowledgement statement in my mind by continuing the profitization of Native land so that CSU can pay off private debt incurred through the construction of an on-campus football stadium.

I am a citizen of Fort Collins who lives on the west side of town, just one mile from the site of the former Hughes Stadium. I consider myself a conservationist (and a trail runner), so I have a vested interest in keeping my so-called “backyard” free from more modern development. I support the Hughes Open Space petition, and I look forward to seeing the initiative on the ballot in April 2021. But I also know that it is a long road ahead as privileged people and institutions like myself and CSU try to engage with the existing Native Nations on their own terms and right the wrongs of the past. Therefore, I think having CSU discontinue their current SPAR process involving the sale of the Hughes Stadium land to a private developer is a good first step towards CSU’s attempt “in recognizing (their) institutional history, responsibility, and commitment” to Native lands. #LandAcknowledgement #NativeAmericanHeritageDay


For more information regarding this letter as well as sources and links used, visit: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lwBbQcCBxf9SOMsL-MHT0Ddfi1KI09gm-reFNnomL64/edit

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