Members of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes gathered Saturday to remember the Sand Creek Massacre on the 150th Anniversary. The tribes gathered near Eads, Colorado for a private ceremony where nearly 200 Native Americans, mostly women and children, were slaughtered by Army soldiers of the Colorado Territory militia. The Sand Creek Massacre occurred on November 29, 1864.
There were a number of public events planned at the national historic site, 23 miles east of Eads. Some of the events included screenings of films about the massacre and discussion sessions.
One hundred fifty years ago, nearly 700 people were camped at Sand Creek on the southeastern plains. It was a location that they believed was safe. And it was safe, until Civil War hero Col. John Chivington attacked the camp with his soldiers, slaughtering many Arapaho and Cheyenne people. After the battle, Chivington paraded through the streets of Denver with body parts of the victims on display.
Sunday, November 30, tribe members and others will participate in the 15th Annual Healing Run. The run retraces the 180-mile route Chivington and his soldiers took to Denver. It is expected that the runners will arrive at the Colorado State Capitol on Wednesday.
According to Otto Braided Hair of the Northern Cheyenne near Lame Deer, Montana, running is very important to the tribes because it was the way they use to relay messages. It is the Native American history and it is important for them to hold onto their history, of where they came from.
During the Healing Run, participants will stop in Denver at the Riverside Cemetery. Two Army officers who refused the order to fire on the Cheyenne and Arapaho are buried here. The two, Lieutenant Joseph Cramer and Captain Silas Soule, would not follow Chivington’s lead at Sand Creek. Soule would go on to testify the Army hearings against Chington and was later killed in Denver. The runners plan to also stop at the site Soule was killed.
The great-grandparents of Braided Hair lived through the massacre and believe that the actions of Cramer and Soule saved lives. Braided Hair believes that he would quite possibly not be here today if all the regiments would have attacked.
While the events officially began at dawn, it was only open to descendants of the survivors of the massacre who all gathered on Monument Hill located at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. After the private ceremony in southeastern Colorado concluded, at approximately 1 p.m., the hill was opened to the public. Until then, there were lectures and events open to the public at the visitor’s station and one of the parking lots.
After the site opened to the public, visitors were free to explore the park or listen to speakers in picnic areas about the history of the day and the park itself.
In the afternoon and evening at the Crow Luther Cultural Events Center in the town of Eads where there will be a preview of two new documentaries about the massacre. The films remembering those of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes who were killed and those who survived the Sand Creek Massacre will be free to the public. There will be a closing ceremony on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the conclusion of the run.
By Carl Auer