A Note to Denverites, Old and New: Can’t We All Get Along?

Check out The Banshee as published in Westword“the definitive source of information for news, music, movies, restaurants, reviews, and events in Denver.”

A Note to Denverites, Old and New: Can’t We All Get Along?

Last week, stuck in horrendous traffic on I-25, I silently cursed each and every one of the 101,000 transplants that have moved to Colorado in the last twelve months. Then I silently cursed the next 100,000 that will soon call Colorado home. And not just anywhere in Colorado, but a small band of the state nuzzled along the Front Range where 80% of transplants are relocating.

My blaspheming got me thinking about the palpable tensions between born-and-raised Coloradans like myself and the state’s many transplants.

I take issue with the popular identification of “Native” to describe those with a Colorado birth certificate. Native populations from the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Navajo, Pawnee, Shoshone and Ute Nations wandered the Front Range for 13,000 years before Westward expansion brought European settlers to the region. If you were born and raised in Colorado, you are a local, not a Native—unless of course you belong to one of the above-listed (or some other) Native American tribes.

Colorado locals are proud. Instilled with the frontier spirit of the Wild West, born-and-raised Coloradans are collectively persistent, embodying a culture of creation, optimism, individualism, self-reliance, curiosity and exploration. As a result of the robust and resilient local ethos, Colorado was among one of the first states to enact Women’s Suffrage, and was the first state to end a nearly 75 year prohibition on Mary Jane.

But some locals are also kind of assholes. As we have watched and felt our home experience this unprecedented growth, some of us have slapped bumper stickers on our Subaru sedans that say, “You Got High, Now Go Home,” “Born Here,” and “No Vacancy.” Some of us locals have written whiny letters to Westword and started Change.org petitions to “stop transplants from moving to Colorado.” Most of us locals bitch to any and every one with ears about the atrocious traffic, crowded hiking trails, skyrocketing rents, and the increased cost of living that population growth has caused.

My fellow born-and-raised Coloradans: I also think the traffic is unbearable. I also cringe when I see overflowing parking lots at trail heads and signs cautioning me to keep my dog on a leash while in the mountains. I also can barely afford my housing. I, too, remember the days when a Cap Hill apartment rented for $475 and eating out was affordable. However, this mass migration of East Coasters, West Coasters, Southerners, Northerners, and Mid-Westerns to Colorado is not going to stop any time soon.

Transplants: please be patient with us locals. What has happened to Colorado in the past ten years is like what would happen to Heaven during the Apocalypse if 1. Heaven was real and 2. More people were not shitheads. These are the years of growing pains. Change is hard and we are grieving the loss of the Colorado that we have lived in and loved for all our lives.

The transplants who are already here are our friends, our dates, our colleagues, and our neighbors. With them they bring new life, ideas, culture, creativity, and substance (substance, coincidentally, is the reason a few of them are even here).

Sure, transplants drive like jacktards. Sure, transplants have poor mountain etiquette (just step aside for ascending hikers if you are descending, okay? it really is not that fucking hard). Sure, transplants have blown T-Rex’s effectiveness to smithereens. Yet transplants are a huge part of our local culture, economy, and lifestyle. As transplants continue to integrate themselves into the fabric of our home-grown spirits, we must find a way to stop the “Native” vs. Transplant madness.

The majority of us locals descend from individuals who were themselves transplants to Colorado sometime in the last 150 years. Compared to the 13,000 years during which true Natives roamed this region, we locals have no special claim to this land. Locals and transplants: let us work together to continue a culture of inclusion, acceptance, formation, and expedition.

Let us all work together to preserve the magical natural beauty of this land and the cutting edge life-force that personifies the spirit of Colorado.

“… there’s a silent voice in the wilderness that we hear only when no one else is around. When you go far, far beyond, out across the netherlands of the Known, the din of human static slowly fades away, over and out.” ― Rob Schultheis

4 thoughts on “A Note to Denverites, Old and New: Can’t We All Get Along?

  1. You amaze me every time with how you can take a complicated issue and write so eloquently about it! Plus you always look for the solution and the best way to be fair to all. So proud!

  2. Just recently discovered your writing and I particularly appreciate this piece. While visiting Colorado in 2005 for a family wedding I misguidedly inquired if a convenience store carried Dr Pepper. With as much scorn as he could muster, the proprietor told me he didn’t carry it “so you Texas people won’t come in here asking for it. ” I didn’t realize that your state is enduring the sort of influx we’ve seen in Texas in the past 25 years. You have very eloquently described the same painful transition we fifth generation Texans have watched in our beloved home state as the entire world shows up on our doorstep to take advantage of our favorable economy and climate. As you astutely pointed out, we all came from somewhere else; in my case my mama’s people came from Tennessee and my daddy’s from Georgia, both before the Civil War. While I like to believe that gives me more of a right to the abundant resources found here, I guess all these folks got here as soon as they could! Thank you for the attitude adjustment, and I hope you’ll continue to speak up on current issues.

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