Teenokuhu (ca. 1822–81), known to English speakers as “Friday” or “Friday Fitzpatrick,” was a nineteenth-century Northern Arapaho leader. As a boy, Teenokuhu (Arapaho for “sits meekly”) was separated from his band and adopted by Thomas Fitzpatrick, a white trapper who took him to St. Louis. After receiving an American education, he returned to his people and became leader of a band that lived along the Cache la Poudre River, near present-day Fort Collins. Among his people, Teenokuhu was recognized as a great hunter and warrior. For Americans, he frequently served as a translator and intermediary in treaty councils and other interactions. He generally favored peace with Americans, so his fellow Arapaho reportedly called him the “Arapaho American.”
Teenokuhu was probably born in 1822 or 1823. In 1831, when he was said to be around eight or nine years old, the Arapaho boy was separated from his band when a fight broke out at a gathering of Arapaho, Blackfeet, and Atsina people along the Cimarron River in what is now southeast Colorado. Thomas Fitzpatrick, an American fur trapper, found him and two other boys on the Great Plains and decided to take Teenokuhu back with him to St. Louis. He named the boy “Friday” after the day of the week he found him. In St. Louis, Friday attended school for two years. Friday learned English and frequently traveled with Fitzpatrick on his trips west, impressing one of the trapper’s colleagues with his “astonishing memory, his minute observation and amusing inquiries.”
On one of these trips—likely in 1838—Fitzpatrick’s party encountered an Arapaho band, and one of the women recognized Teenokuhu, claiming him as her son. With Fitzpatrick’s approval, Friday opted to return to his people. He soon gained a reputation as a great bison hunter and warrior, earning praise in battles against the Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute.
Interpreter and Intermediary
According to fellow Arapaho Sun Road, Friday played an important diplomatic role during the 1840s and 1850s. In July 1843, he translated for the party of American explorer John C. Frémont in what is now northern Colorado, and the next spring he performed a similar duty for Rufus Sage on the Arkansas River. In September 1851, Friday was at the council in Kansas that eventually produced the Treaty of Fort Laramie, but he and several other Arapaho and Cheyenne leaders left early to serve as delegates to Washington, DC. The US government hoped the Indian leaders would be impressed enough by American military power to adhere to the terms of the treaty, signed in October while Friday was on his way to Washington.
Friday continued his role as intermediary throughout the 1850s, interpreting for an Arapaho-Mormon encounter in Wyoming in 1857 and for Little Owl’s band during a visit to Ferdinand V. Hayden’s surveying party in 1859. His consistent calls for peace with whites, even as they grew more hostile toward his people during the 1860s, drew the ire of other Northern Arapaho leaders. By that time, the Northern Arapaho had been mostly forced out of Colorado by political campaigns that sought land for whites to mine or farm. These campaigns were punctuated with violent acts, such as the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. By the late 1860s, only Friday’s band of Northern Arapaho remained in Colorado, numbering about 175 along the Cache la Poudre.
The Council Tree
Standing in a meadow near the confluence of the Cache la Poudre and Boxelder Creek in what is now southeast Fort Collins, a massive cottonwood tree served as a meeting place for Friday’s Arapaho band. The tree was remarked upon by early white residents of the valley, including the homesteader Robert Strauss, who arrived in 1860. Strauss claimed the land where the tree stood, but he did not interrupt its use by the local Arapaho. They continued to meet under the tree until the late 1860s, when territorial governor Alexander Hunt forced Friday to move his band north of the Platte River. There, they rejoined the two other Northern Arapaho bands under Medicine Man and Black Bear.
By the time Friday’s band moved north to Wyoming, the Northern Arapaho were in dire straits. Disease outbreaks, the loss of hunting territory to whites, and war with the US Army had thinned their numbers to the point where they needed help from other Indian nations to survive. In his customary role of interpreter, Friday helped Northern Arapaho efforts to retain their lands in Wyoming during the late 1860s and 1870s. Eventually, most of the Northern Arapaho attached themselves to Red Cloud’s Lakota, who lived on a reservation in Montana.
During the late 1870s, partly to improve their own lot and partly to increase their people’s leverage with the government, some young Arapaho men became scouts for the US Army, including Friday’s son Bill.
Wind River Reservation
In September 1877, Friday made his last trip to Washington, DC, where he and other Northern Arapaho persuaded President Rutherford B. Hayes to let their people remain in Wyoming. In October the Northern Arapaho returned to Wyoming to live alongside the Shoshone on the Wind River Reservation. Friday lived on the reservation with his people until his death in May 1881.