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Colorado State History

Colorado's first inhabitants were likely the Anasazi Indians who, four centuries before Columbus, lived in multi-story cliff dwellings in canyons in the southwestern corner of Colorado. At the end of the thirteenth century, these Indians abandoned their cliff dwellings and apparently moved southward. The first Europeans to venture into Colorado were the Spanish. In 1540-41, Coronado led an expedition north from Mexico in search of the Seven Cities of Cibola where the streets were allegedly paved with gold. Although this exact route is unknown, it is likely Coronado and his party passed through the present-day area of southeastern Colorado. Over the next 250 years, the Spanish made other expeditions into the Colorado area.

In 1800, Spain ceded a vast area, including Colorado, to Napoleon Bonaparte and the French. Three years later, the same parcel of land was sold by Napoleon the United States as the "Louisiana Purchase". In 1806, President Jefferson commissioned Lieutenant Zebulon Pike to explore the recently purchased territory. Among the sites mentioned by Pike in his report of the expedition was the 14,110-foot peak, which today bears his name. Pike stated in his report that it was unlikely the summit would ever be scaled. A group of explorers led by Major Stephen H. Long proved Pike to be wrong in 1820 when Dr. Edwin James and two others in the Long party became the first to climb to the summit of Pike's Peak. In making their journey, Long and his party passed the present day locations of Greeley, Denver, and Colorado Springs. They also viewed the mountain later known as Lounge's Peak.

Many Indian tribes roamed Colorado and contributed to the state's history. The Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Kiowa were the most important plains tribes. They were nomadic, hunting and making clothes from the skins of buffalo and deer, living in teepees, and depending on berries and roots for vegetables. The Spanish found Navajo in southwestern Colorado. The Apache frequently came into the state from New Mexico and Arizona. The Utes inhabited the state’s mountains and appear to have been the only indigenous tribe of Colorado. Utes remaining in Colorado today live in the southwestern corner of the state. The Cheyenne and Arapaho roamed the state's eastern plains.

The discovery of gold in California in 1849 touched off a search for gold in other regions including the Rocky Mountains and accounted for the first extensive settlement of Colorado. In July of 1858, William Green Russell, a Georgia miner, discovered several hundred dollars worth of gold at the mouth of Dry Creek in the present-day Denver suburb of Englewood. Russell's find started the "Pike's Peak or Bust" gold rush of 1858-59. Historians estimate that approximately 50,000 people came to Colorado in search of gold in 1858-59.

After Russell and his brothers made another gold discovery on Cherry Creek, General William Larimer led a group of men from the Kansas Territory to establish a settlement there. The resulting settlement was christened Denver City in honor of James W. Denver, governor of Kansas Territory. Cherry Creek provided a boundary between Denver City and another community established earlier, Auraria. Despite an initial rivalry, these two communities were consolidated into the single community of Denver in 1860. Gold deposits found in other areas led to the establishment of more towns. In particular, the discovery of gold forty miles west of Cherry Creek led to the establishment of the twin towns of Central City and Blackhawk. The first permanent white settlements in the state were in the San Luis Valley. The town of San Luis founded in 1851 is generally considered the oldest continually occupied town in Colorado.

In January of 1861, Congress voted statehood for Kansas. A bill to create Colorado Territory was passed almost immediately thereafter. President Lincoln appointed William Gilpin as the state's first territorial governor. The population of Colorado in 1861 was 21,000. The first legislature, sitting in Denver, selected Colorado City (west of present day Colorado Springs) as the capitol. The second legislature met there only a few days, in 1862, and adjourned to Denver. The assembly met in Denver and Golden up to 1867 when Denver was named the permanent seat of the territory. In the years following the establishment of the territory, numerous attempts were made to gain statehood for Colorado. However, it was not until 1876 - fifteen years after becoming a territory - that Colorado was admitted as the thirty-eighth state in the union. Colorado was called the "Centennial State" in honor of the one-hundredth year of the Declaration of Independence.

Once primarily a mining and agricultural state, Colorado's economy is now driven by the service industries, including medical providers and other business and professional services. Colorado's economy also has a strong manufacturing base. The primary manufactures are food products, printing and publishing, machinery, and electrical instruments. The state is also a communications and transportation hub for the Rocky Mountain region. The farm industry, which is primarily concentrated in livestock, is also an important element of the state's economy. The primary crops in Colorado are corn, hay, and wheat.

Breathtaking scenery and world-class skiing make Colorado a prime tourist destination. The main tourist attractions in the state include Rocky Mountain National Park, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Mesa Verde National Park, the Great Sand Dunes and Dinosaur National Monuments, Colorado National Monument, and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument.

Historic Figures in Colorado

  • Kit Carson 1809-68: Known best as a mountain man, Kit Carson also was an Indian agent and had a long military service record. He accompanied three of the Fremont expeditions as a guide.
  • Barney Ford 1822-1902: Known as a successful businessman in early Colorado, Barney Ford was instrumental in ensuring that equal voting rights for all citizens became a part of the state's constitution in 1876. Ford, who was once a runaway slave, is best known for his work in support of civil rights in early Colorado history.
  • Nathaniel P. Hill 1832-1900: Known as a famous chemist who built the first large mining smelter in Colorado in 1868.
  • William J. Palmer 1836-1907: Known best as a builder of railroads, but also as a successful businessman, military man and philanthropist.
  • Chipeta, "White Singing Bird" 1844-1924: In 1859, she became the second wife of Ouray of the Uncompaghres, chief of the Ute Indian Nation. Her diplomatic tenacity strove to achieve a bloodless peace with white settlers.
  • Jack Dempsey 1895-1983: Boxer
  • M. Scott Carpenter 1925: Astronaut flight on May 24, 1962.
  • Tim Allen 1953-Today: Actor and comedian.

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Drug Facts

Psychoactive: A term, usually applied to a DRUG, indicating an ability change psychological processing or behaviour; HALLUCINOGENS, COCAINE, MARIJUANA and NICOTINE are examples of drugs that can be called psychoactive. Drugs that induce sedation, such as the OPIATES and other NARCOTICS, can also be described as psychoactive, because, although rather stupefying, they do change psychological processes.
Some people think that pot doesn’t give you a hangover — at least not one that makes you feel dehydrated, headachy, and disgusting. But that doesn't mean your body isn’t trying to recuperate. Marijuana “hangovers” can last for a few days, and the fog generally includes problems with alertness, coordination, depth perception (not good for driving), and a distorted sense of time. Because the THC in marijuana is absorbed into the fatty tissue in the body’s organs, it takes your body a while to metabolize it. This means that if you have a drug test even up to four weeks after using, the results may show up dirty. More sophisticated blood or hair tests can detect marijuana months after use. This is extra tricky because random drug testing is on the rise in schools and in the workplace.
As of 2005, opiates are separated into two categories: completely illegal Schedule I substances, such as heroin, and regulated Schedule II substances, including morphine, codeine, and hydromorphone. Hydromorphone, a slight alteration of the morphine molecule, was first created and patented by Abbott Laboratories as the prescription pain-killer Dilaudid. Stronger than morphine and available in pill, injection, and SUPPOSITORY form, Dilaudid quickly became popular as a pain reliever for patients in long-lasting, or chronic, pain. It could also be used safely by patients who had allergic reactions to morphine.
Alcohol and other drug dependencies are all too common in the United States. The term "dependent" is applied to individuals who take part in habitual, improper drug use because their bodies grow accustomed to and actually adapt to the continuous presence of drugs and need the drug to function normally. When a dependent body is deprived of a drug, negative physical symptoms of withdrawal occur. There are two main types of alcohol or drug dependence. The first kind is physical dependency. This means that the body has developed a physiological reliance on a drug because it has caused changes in its natural state of being. Opiates, tobacco, and alcohol are common drugs that cause physical dependency. The second kind, psychological dependency, affects a person emotionally and mentally rather than, or in addition to, physiologically. This develops from the memory of the sense of euphoria that the drug creates, causing a person to long for that feeling and think of it often. Cocaine and amphetamines are examples of drugs that cause very serious psychological dependencies.

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