The Famous Fort Collins Council Tree


Warshinun’s Arapaho band held meetings at the distinctive cottonwood, which was struck by lighting numerous times and accidentally set on fire at least once during its 120- year lifespan.

When the once great tree was removed in the 1950’s, 300 pounds of lead bullets, a projectile point, and an arrow shaft were found lodged in its trunk. That is not the only remarkable fact about the council tree, and here is your chance to learn more!

Here is a physical piece of bark from the council tree, the rest of the tree was burned down by a ditch fire.


Who Met at the Tree?

Chief Friday of the Warshinun’s Arapaho Band

Chief friday and his band of Arapaho tribesmen met regularly at the council Tree until they were moved to a reservation in Wyoming in 1876.


Robert Strauss

Picture Robert Strauss moved to the Cache la Poudre River in 1864, but his house was quickly swept away and so he moved further downriver and built what would become known as the Strauss Cabin just across from the Council Tree. This location caused Strauss to have regular interactions with the local Native American tribes and local settlers interested in the tree until his death in 1904. The cabin was originally renovated and opened as a local history museum but was burnt to the ground by arson shortly after. Strauss was never married and the myth is that he died alone in a flood. his neighbors found him hugging a post near the tree after being driven from his home in flood waters. after his death, his property was sold and farmed for several decades before succumbing to development.

American Military Cavalrymen

Picture The Colorado Cavalry’s first interaction with Native Americans at the tree occurred in the late 1850’s when a patrol through Indian territory discovered a Ute woman about to be executed at the tree by some of the Arapaho. The Cavalrymen rescued her and returned her to her tribe shortly afterward. The cavalry continued to meet with native americans at the council tree into the late 1870’s. it’s assumed that the military and later settlers used the tree as target practice due to the fact that 300 lbs. of lead bullets were found in the tree trunk after it was cut down.


  • The Council Tree grew to be 100 feet high and 16 feet in diameter with twisting branches and a unique look.
  • One of the first recorded events, in the late 1850s, was the rescuing of a Ute girl being kidnapped and burned. 
  • In 1862 the Indian Commissioner met with several tribes under the Council Tree and the meeting resulted in a treaty. The treaty gave the land along the Poudre River to white settlers.
  • Council Tree is also known as the Squaw Tree.  The Arapahoe ‘buried’ their loved ones on platforms high in the branches of the tree 
  • In the late 1800s a wild fire damaged the tree, and in the spring of 1938 there was a large trash fire that nearly destroyed it completely. 
  • The tree was struck by a significant lightning bolt, stood through two floods, and survived nearly 70 more years than the average cottonwood.
  • W.J. Morrill, a professor of forestry at Colorado State University, launched a campaign in 1939 to save the endangered species of cottonwood.
  • The last known photograph and account of the tree while standing was in 1947.
  • Today, the area is open space with irrigation ditches and the exact location of the tree is possibly in the middle of a pond.
  • The general area is visible from I-25, near the Colorado State University Environmental Learning Center.   


Warshinun: Chief Friday


a white man named Thomas Fitzpatrick found a young arapaho boy and called him “Friday” after the day of the week on which he was found. thomas took friday  to St.Louis and raised him in catholic school among the whites. this experience helped friday become a peace chief and diplomat for the native Americans and white settlers.

Warshinun later returned to his tribe and became a leader because of his ability to speak english and his understanding of Euro-American culture. Chief Friday was friendly to the settlers because he was used to their ways having grown up among them.
Settlers knew him as Chief Friday, though he was likely never a true chief.
Warshinun’s band lived near Fort Collins until 1869. Forced by starvation and the hostility of some local citizens, they relocated to Lander, Wyoming. after being relocated, the tribe returned once to the tree to collect the remains of their loved ones buried in the tree. Cheif Friday was friendly to the settlers because he was used to their ways having grown up. The Daughters of the Revolution posted a plaque in memory and honor of chief friday. it read, “council tree of chief friday, of the arapahoes.”

Works Cited