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Native Americans gather on lot where Hughes Stadium once stood for Re-Emergence Encampment

"Re-Emergence Encampment" Native American Gathering
Posted at 9:53 PM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 00:38:58-04

FORT COLLINS, Colo — On most days, the land where Colorado State University’s Hughes Stadium once stood is vacant. This weekend, however, it will be full of teepees, tents, and members of a community who no longer want to be forgotten.

“It’s beautiful in its own way,” John Red Cloud said of the sparse grass and trees under his feet, symbolic of the tenacity of his fellow Native Americans. “It’s here and there, but nobody’s taken care of it. Yet, it survives.”

Ever since Hughes Stadium was demolished, tribal elders have called on leaders with the city of Fort Collins and Colorado State University to return the land to Native Americans, who had it long before it was claimed by white settlers. The tension reached a head last year when a sweat lodge erected by Native Americans was removed by city workers.

Since then, though, there has been healing. An event this weekend called the Re-Emergence Encampment was jointly planned by Native American elders and city officials.

Participants for the event come from many Native American tribes from across the country, wanting to reconnect with their roots and raise awareness of issues they feel are often overlooked. Chief among them this year, they say, are climate change and mental health. They also want recognition for the generational trauma their people have faced, and for the high number indigenous men and women who are murdered or go missing each year.

“Starting from the moment we started getting colonized, there’s been a lot of trauma and no one’s actually been willing to help,” said Sahela Cross. “It causes a lot more drug and alcohol addictions, and it causes suicides.”

“A lot of people, when I tell them I’m Native American, they’re like, "Y’all still exist?"” said Kendra Bruner. “It’s upsetting, but at the same time it’s reality.”

Even still, participants feel a sense of hope as they gather together at the base of the Fort Collins foothills. Many tribes — at one point in history, enemies of one another — can now come together as one. People of other races come to the camp to join them and spend the weekend living on and with the land.

With cooperation with the city of Fort Collins, the plan is for the Re-Emergence Encampment to reemerge for years to come.

“I’m hoping that what we’re doing here spreads awareness to what we’re doing, and people realize that we’re still here,” Bruner said. “We are still thriving, even though not a lot of people see us.”