Workers try to separate the first group of bison in holding pens before being loaded onto trailers during an event to recognize the donation of Denver Mountain Park bison to the Northern Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes, as well as to the TallBull Memorial Council on Monday, March 21, 2022, at Genesee Park in Golden, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette)

A new agreement between Denver and the Tall Bull Memorial Council would give the Indigenous group the exclusive right to use the Tall Bull Memorial Grounds at Daniels Park as sacred land in perpetuity unless future councils change the agreement.

The Tall Bull Memorial Council has members from a number of Indigenous tribes. Denver has had a similar agreement with the council for the past 50 years allowing the group to use the 70 acres of land at Daniels Park, a 1,000-acre Denver Mountain Park in Douglas County.

The agreement between Denver and the Indigenous group ends in 2022. The new agreement approved Tuesday by Denver City Council’s Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will automatically renew without further action every 25 years and includes a few other provisions to improve the relationship with the Indigenous group.

Scott Gilmore, deputy manager of Denver Parks and Recreation, said the agreement also includes a bison conservation program. The city knows how valuable bison are to Indigenous groups, he said. The city has donated a couple of bison to Tall Bull Memorial Council before, but it primarily auctioned off the herds of city-owned bison. Now the city will no longer auction off bison but will donate them to Indigenous tribes across the country, facilitated by the council.

Previously, Indigenous tribes needed to ask permission from Parks and Recreation before collecting and harvesting native plants like willows or sage. The new agreement allows them to harvest plants without having to go through the city.

Since Gilmore started in his role 10 years ago, he said he has worked with Tall Bull Memorial Council Chairman Rich Tall Bull, the great-grandchild of the chief who was killed in battle with federal troops and the namesake for the land.

“We can’t fix the wrongs that have been done in the past, but we can move forward and try to build trust and build relationships which benefit everyone,” Gilmore said.

Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer asked why the city isn’t giving ownership of the land to the Tall Bull Memorial Council. A representative from the city attorney’s office explained that because it is designated as part of the city’s park system, it would require a vote from the people to be sold or donated. Sawyer was concerned that a future council could try to flip this agreement, but she was assured that nothing could happen without the Indigenous group's agreement.

The new agreement would take effect if it is approved by the full Denver City Council.

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