Until gold was revealed in the Rocky Mountains in 1859, the native population was virtually undisturbed by outside influence and the prairies were freely used to sustain life. When the gold was discovered, a whole new attitude came across the land. The population exploded and that means that there came change. With the discovery of gold, the invaders from the east would make those changes. Just like the unearthing of this widely sought out metal a decade earlier in California by the forty-niners, the fifty-niners forced themselves in to stake and protect their claims. With these changes, those who had original title to the land would find themselves under new ideas, new laws, and a new way of life. But, just because there is gold to be had, not everybody will be successful. There will be new wealth and bitter disappointment. So, the question is who benefitted the most from this discovery and who got the wrong end of the stick?
The first set of losers were the “go backs”. No census was ever taken to count the number of people who lefts their homes to go to the mountains, but it was estimated that the number totaled a 100,000 new immigrants by historians with about only 50,000 making it. The work was hard and the returns were disappointing. Some miners made it rich, but most didn’t. What little bit of gold that they did find was used for food, housing, and supplies. So after a couple of weeks, half of them either started new towns, farms, businesses to sell much needed supplies and goods to the miners, and the rest went back home poorer than when they came
The ones who lost the most were the one who were here originally, the Native Indians. They have been here since approximately A.D.1 being called the “Basketmakers”. They had been able to live their lives in their own communities virtually unmolested by outside influences for almost a millennium and a half until the Spaniards and the new white Europeans. Their numbers didn’t compare to the ones of the gold rush and they usually just came and went. Travelers had passed through their land on their way to California since the 1840s, but now gold had been discovered here in Colorado they are here to stay.
Mining cities were being constructed taking away their land and hunting grounds. The propaganda and promotional books printed for the gold rush sated that there were very few problem between the emigrants and the Natives. But after a couple of years, the Indians started realizing that the miners were hunting all their game and using all their resources. They were starting to starve and in order to survive; they would have to raid the homes and the wagons that were coming into Colorado. The raids started to cause fear in the travelers and settlers which led to the Army’s organized attacks on the natives that included the Sand Creek Massacre where there were about 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children killed.
Not everything was bad that came out of the Rock Mountain gold discovery....