Dr. Nicki Gonzales Is Colorado’s New State Historian, First Latina to Hold the Role


Denver, Colo. (July 20, 2021) — An expert on the history of the American West is taking on an important new role in service to Colorado. Dr. Nicki Gonzales, professor of history and vice provost for diversity and inclusion at Regis University, begins her one-year term as the official Colorado State Historian on Colorado Day, Saturday, Aug. 1. Gonzales assumes the role from noted historian and author Dr. Duane Vandenbusche.

The first Latino person to be Colorado’s State Historian, which is a position established in 1924, Gonzales’ historical expertise focuses on Chicano history and Southwest social and political movements. She plans to incorporate youth in the exploration of Colorado’s past during her term as State Historian, and to support more inclusive practices of historical inquiry. In doing so, Gonzales is eager to raise more awareness about historical events with significant contemporary legacies, such as the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, about which History Colorado is currently collaborating with tribal partners to present a long-term exhibition.

“History is one of the most effective ways we can understand ourselves and our present moment,” said Gonzales. “I’d like to see more unrecognized stories shared publicly so we can arrive at a truer sense of where we’ve been and who we are.”

“Dr. Gonzales harnesses history’s power to encourage empathy and mutual understanding and thereby lead us to a brighter future,” said Jason Hanson, History Colorado’s Chief Creative Officer and Director of Interpretation and Research, who facilitates the State Historian’s Council. “She approaches her work with deep intelligence but also with humility, and is an adept communicator about even the most complex or fraught topics. Dr. Gonzales applies her scholarship in ways that benefit people’s everyday lives and will serve as a valuable asset for all people in Colorado as the State Historian.”

Colorado’s State Historian has been part of a five-person council since 2018, when History Colorado established the State Historian’s Council to amplify different perspectives and to reinforce the collective foundation of history and storytelling. The council rotates its leadership position every year on Colorado’s birthday. In keeping with the influential, forward-leaning practices of History Colorado, which is home to the nation’s largest state historical fund for preservation and operates 10 museums and historic sites statewide, the council embraces a collaborative and inclusive approach to leadership. Fellow council members are Vandenbusche, Tom Noel, Jared Orsi, and William Wei.

Vandenbusche hands the baton to Gonzales after an influential term for the council under his leadership. In the past year, its members have partnered with a commission formed by Mayor Michael B. Hancock to rename Denver landmarks and public spaces, and contributed expertise to the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board. Collectively contributing more than 590 donated hours of their time, the council also held two public roundtable discussions—their first since the group was formed—that are now available on History Colorado’s YouTube channel: Tumult and Transfer of Power and Lifting the Hood: Denver’s KKK Ledgers.

About Nicki Gonzales

Dr. Nicki Gonzales is a professor of history and vice provost for diversity and inclusion at Regis University. She is a member of History Colorado’s State Historian’s Council and in July 2020 was named by Gov. Jared Polis to the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board, where she will serve as vice chair beginning in August. She is a native of Denver and her family has deep roots in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Gonzales’ research interests include the land grant movements of Southern Colorado and the experiences of Chicano Vietnam Veterans. She is also a mom to her sons, Danny and Teddy.

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