I can haz rant!? “Colorado Native”

As I get ready to move from the great state of Colorado to the frigid north of Minnesnowta, I wanted to get something off my chest about Colorado pride.

I’m from Colorado, born and raised, and folks from Colorado have a bit of an ego when it comes to their state.  And perhaps they should…


The place is incredible!  Some of the best skiing in the world, beautiful hikes, mountain biking, fishing.  Plus, it’s damn nice to look at!

But those who were born and raised in Colorado are so proud of their state that it borders on absurdity.  Whenever there’s a conversation about where people are from, those from Colorado proudly boast, “I’m a native.”

“Native.”

Interesting use of language.  People who were born and raised here are so proud of being from the state that they often boast it on their cars with bumper stickers like this one…

(For those unaware, it’s mean to look like the Colorado license plate.)

Folks are so proud that the term “Colorado Native” is now even an adult beverage!

Now, it’s one thing to be proud of where you’re from, but it’s not the Colorado pride that bothers me.  It’s the language.

The word “native” carries a particular context in the United States.  In Colorado, Native usually refers to the  six tribes that were indigenous to this territory and the three tribes that sometimes occupied the area now known as Colorado.

Yet I am pretty darn sure that every time I have pulled up next to a car with the “Colorado Native” sticker in the window, the person I saw didn’t look too Indigenous (though, to be fair, Indigenous folks can have a wide range of skin tones and hair colors).  No, those folks I pull up next to are usually a fratty bro or blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman.  White folks.

Now, let me be clear.  There’s nothing wrong with being White and being proud of your home state.  That’s all well and good.

BUT YOU’RE NOT A NATIVE!  

To appropriate that language only further makes “invisible” the Indigenous people who were here LONG before us White folks and who are STILL HERE despite the efforts of folks who look like me to exterminate them form this land.

So unless you’re Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Pueblo, Shoshone, Ute, Comanche, Kiowa, Navajo, or a member of one of the other Indigenous tribes that were forcibly moved to this state, please . . . Please . . .

PLEASE take that damn sticker off your car.

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7 thoughts on “I can haz rant!? “Colorado Native”

  1. […] A friend of mine recently wrote a similar article about this, on a smaller scale and slightly different context, but similar none-the-less. Check out Jamie’s blog: Change From Within […]

  2. […] A friend of mine recently wrote a similar article about this, on a smaller scale and slightly different context, but similar none-the-less. Check out Jamie’s blog: Change From Within […]

  3. thank you

    rowan, a canadian now living in wales, where some of my ancestors lived

  4. I’m from Colorado and am also proud to say I’ve lived there my whole life. Native does have the connotation of indigenous people who once reigned over North America. But that’s because that was the only land they had ever known. Colorado is the only land I’ve ever known too. I have Irish and German heritage, but that’s so many generations back I have little connection to it. So if I am not native to Ireland or Germany, and its not PC to call myself a native to Colorado, what am I?
    I would also like to say, the indigenous Americans did not call this land Colorado. It was much different to them back then, than it is today. So therefore, when I call myself Colorado native, it refers to the culture of Colorado, the cities, the mountains, the people. I am Colorado native, and find no problem with saying that.

    • Melissa, I’m glad that you find no problem saying that, but frankly, a lot of folks do have a problem with you saying it. Whether or not Indigenous people called the area Colorado, they are the only people native to that land, and for a colonizing settler such as yourself or me to call ourselves native is to deny their experience and their history. To answer you question of “what am I?” Well, all European Americans in this land are colonizers. Once we recognize this fact, we can start to deal with the implications and begin to work for justice.

      I would encourage you to check out the sourcebook “Unsettling Ourselves.” It is specifically addressing some issues in Minnesota in part, but on the whole, it is a great resource for White folks to consider when we think of our place on colonized land.

      http://unsettlingminnesota.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/um_sourcebook_jan10_revision.pdf

      • But aren’t the indigenous people technically descended from people who colonized it from Asia who in turn colonized Asia from Africa? I just don’t understand why people who were born and have lived their entire lives in a state can’t call themselves “natives” because their ancestors didn’t.

        I mean don’t get me wrong the Native Americans have it pretty shitty right now. Because theres so few of them remaining they have to deal with so many blatant kinds of racism that would never fly here in America for any other ethnic group. But I still don’t understand how this makes the word “native” racially charged, I never knew it was until today. Could you explain your reasoning a bit more?

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