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Niwot, Colorado (platted in 1875) was named after Chief Niwot, an Arapahoe Amerindian chief (Niwot means "left hand" in the Arapahoe language). The Arapahoe were inhabiting Left Hand Valley at the time of the arrival of the first white settlers, maintaining an encampment on Left Hand Creek about three miles west of the present day village of Niwot (near Haystack Mountain - stone tepee foundations can still be found there). This encampment was a prime lookout point for buffalo in the vicinity of present day Gunbarrel. After the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 the Arapahoe left the area, never to return.
Farmers, most of them miners from Black Hawk further down Left Hand Creek, began settling the land near Haystack Mountain as early as 1859. Railroad tracks were laid between Boulder and Longmont in 1873, and a mail stop was built at the halfway point. Will T. Wilson, the station agent, named the post office "Modoc" after "an ornery bunch of Indians out in California." There was already a Niwot post office at the mouth of Left Hand Canyon, and by the late 1870s there was confusion over which location should be called Niwot (i.e., "Left Hand"). The solution? Old Niwot became Altona and Modoc became Niwot, which was quickly growing from a single post office to a village.