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An Arapaho Chief
Chief Niwot

I received an email invitation to a beer tasting. One of the breweries is called the Left Hand Brewing Company, in Longmont, Colorado. As most of my friends will tell you, I suffer from OCLH, or obsessive compulsive left handedness.

So I googled the brewery and discovered it was named after the 19th century Southern Arapaho leader Chief Niwot, and Niwot is an Arapaho word for left hand, so Chief Niwot, one assumes, was a southpaw.

I can go on and on naming prominent lefthanders, from da Vinci and Babe Ruth to Marilyn Monroe and Michelangelo. Four of our last five U.S. presidents were/are lefties. I did not know of any prominent Native-American lefthanders until today.

I do not know if Chief Niwot was great, because he made some terrible errors in judging the white men searching for gold who stumbled upon his beautiful Boulder Valley in Colorado in 1858.

And the results were dire, though the whites in power seemed so bloodthirsty that there was likely nothing Chief Niwot could have done to prevent the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in which he and most of the men, women and children of a peaceful Arapaho village were murdered.

But he was honorable and poetic, always taking the high road and determined to find peaceful solutions. And he said this, worthy of a John Muir in its wisdom, or of a Hemingway in its spare, simple irony:

``People who see the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.''

To a degree this is always true, though sometimes a place's raw beauty will inspire people to save it, such as the case of Yosemite and Muir and Theodore Roosevelt.

I am told that Boulder Valley is stil quite beautiful, though undoubtedly not as beautiful as it was in 1858. Perhaps it has been saved to a degree in remembrance of Chief Niwot, whose memory is still honored in Boulder Valley and beyond.

Many things are named after him. The Left Hand Valley Courier. Lefthand Canyon and Niwot Ridge and Niwot Mountain and Niwot, Colorado, where houses can sell in the millions. And now, of course, a beer.

Perhaps, someday, a peace or poetry prize will be named in Chief Niwot's honor.