My Town – Spear Lodge Man


This beautiful man graces the main street through my little town of Niwot on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Niwot was platted in 1875 (17 years after gold miners arrived in this area), as the Colorado Central Railroad extended it's tracks northeast of Boulder. Long before it was platted and laid out in a grid to accommodate the iron horse that charged down the ribbon of steel rail that now runs along the edge of the highway, this land was inhabited by the Arapaho people, and Chief Niwot was a tribal leader whose name translates to "left hand".  


Last year the town of Niwot commissioned artist Eddie Running Wolf (a Northern Cheyenne descendant) to carve the first of three old willows that had died along Niwot road. In the spirit of bridging cultures, the town worked with the Northern Arapaho Language and Culture Commission to come up with both the concept and the name of the sculpture. HIs name is Biitoheinen, which means Spirit Lodge Man and was a spear carrier. The spear carriers were the protectors of the the tribe, responsible for policing the camp, supervising communal hunts and enforcing decisions of the chiefs.


It took Eddie a year to the day to carve this magnificent warrior. Many days my kids and I would see him in the searing hot sun, blustery wind, cold clear January days and then the warmer days of spring, carving with great detail this stunning sculpture. We stopped to talk to Eddie a couple of times about his work and to be sure he was well hydrated. He said he liked working through the seasons, feeling what the early people of the plains felt as they worked and hunted this land.


The detail of his sinewy grace takes my breath away. 


His proud countenance a reminder of the people that came before.


The detail and flow of his wooden headdress amazes me – can you hear the wind against the feathers?


His beautiful horse strains against the reins as he looks west towards the mountains.


This amazing, strong hand reminds me of another. I can almost feel the blood pulse beneath his skin.


This dedication brings tears to my eyes. I am a Colorado native with deep ties here, and I love the land, the (still, but disappearing) wide open spaces of the plains as they meet the foothills. I love to think of the people who lived here before I did. Before my European descendants began taming this land with their farms and commerce. A beautiful dedication. "The invisible dead of my tribe" – I like to think of them roaming the land still. 


If you find yourself cruising Niwot road, park at the liquor store, walk across the street and spend a few moments taking in this magnificent Spear Lodge Man. 

4 Responses to My Town – Spear Lodge Man

  1. Lisa Hoffman says:

    I guess I’ll have to make a point of driving by. I love the story and any time that we can bridge two cultures…..hooray for Niwot. May there continue to be many more projects like this.
    Thanks for the great photo tour, Mz. Frannie.

  2. Serena says:

    I too often think of the people who came before us….roaming the lands before white settlement. A beautiful and heartfelt post, Fran.

  3. stephanie says:

    I have enjoyed watching this progess, but have not seen it completed….really amazing and your photos…perfectly captures the majesty Fran!

  4. Kelleigh says:

    Indians DO STILL “roam this land”… In other words “live here,” just saying. To talk like they are already extinct is not respectful either to our modern fellow Americans or to the cumulative history that brought all of us here. Please try not to use “vanishing Indian” language, even when you’re talking about history, that history is not gone, and Native people participate in American history but they are people and don’t qualify as American history.

    Legally, Niwot is still on Cheyenne-Arapahoe land, and believe it or not some Native people survived the attempts at genocide, Denver has one of the highest Native populations of any city in America… So PLEASE remember modern Indian people are STILL ALIVE KTHNX!

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