Four Winds American Indian Council is an American Indian "liberated zone" located in the heart of Denver, Colorado, in the original territories of the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Ute Nations. By "liberated zone" we mean that Four Winds is a facility where indigenous peoples are free to use the buildings for Native empowerment, without apology or explanation to the settler society that now surrounds us.
The consequence of over two centuries of US colonizing policy is that nearly 70% of Native people have been displaced from their traditional territories and now live in urban areas, such as Denver, and are in the bottom of every socio-economic indicator in the United States. Four Winds was founded as a breakwater against the flood of assimilation and historical amnesia for indigenous youth and the broader community in Denver. Four Winds is one place in Denver where Native people can speak their languages, participate in their ceremonies, strategize and organize for their liberation, and rebuild an empowered community.
Founded in the 1980' s, Four Winds is based in an old church and parsonage, previously owned and run by the Lutheran Church. We have transformed the previous usages of the church of conversion and assimilation to a vision of liberation and indigenous self-determination. Our efforts are advanced by many projects that are sponsored by Four Winds, in addition to a variety of community partnerships and collaborations with Native organizations and with progressive non -Native organization and educational institution alliances. Yet, Four Winds is unique among other Native organizations in that we actively embrace the challenging issues facing the American Indian community - from homelessness to politics to economic independence to wellbriety to food decolonization to cultural integrity. The hallmarks of Four Winds are self-dignity and self-determination - emerging from the strength of our histories, and of our values, principles, and traditions.
For more than 25 years, our community occupied the buildings where we gathered on a rent-free basis in cooperation with the Rocky Mountain Lutheran Church Synod Council. Relationships were built, and respect for each others' histories and cultures developed. In 2015, the decision was made by the Synod Council to return the land where the Native community gathers to Four Winds American Indian Council. This rare return of land to Native Peoples is historic - not only in Denver and in Colorado, but in all of North America. At the ceremony where the official transfer of title took place, the Lutherans acknowledged that "the land had never really belonged to [us] in the first place."
Recent efforts by the Four Winds Council have been successful in making the century-old Four Winds buildings more energy efficient, with new furnaces, water heaters, appliances, window treatments, and lighting. A comprehensive recycling and composting project set the example for young people about taking the Native mandate seriously to make decisions today based on "how they will affect the next Seven Generations ." Four Winds continually strives to hold the Seventh Generation Principle at the core of our values, mission, and projects.