Last week, stuck in horrendous traffic on I-25, I silently cursed each and every one of the 101,000 transplants who have moved to Colorado in the last twelve months. Then I silently cursed the next 100,000 who 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 percent 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 trailheads 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 during non-happy-hour hours was affordable. However, this mass migration of East Coasters, West Coasters, Southerners, Northerners and Midwesterners to Colorado is not going to stop any time soon. 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 spirit, 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 really have no 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 to preserve the magical natural beauty of this land and the cutting-edge life force that personifies the spirit of Colorado.
Read more from Natalie Tuffield on her blog, confessionsofabanshee.com, "Mostly Tragic Tales of Dating, Living & Working in the Mile High City."