The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

Making Amends to Massacred Indians

Posted by thelamp on May 4, 2007

The word “massacre” evokes a vision of horrific violence being unleashed on unsuspecting, innocent people. For the moment, the victims of last month’s tragedy at Virginia Tech immediately come to mind. In a long-gone era, however, massacre described the demise of 150 Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians who were slain as they slept in a Colorado village.

Last week, on land where two cultures collided, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site marker was officially dedicated 160 miles southeast of Denver to honor those killed more than 142 years ago. In an early morning attack, 700 Colorado militia volunteers slaughtered nearly everyone in the Sand Creek village while most of the men were away hunting. Consequently, the vast majority of the victims were women and children.

Although remembering such tragedies is heart wrenching, it’s appropriate for the nation’s shameful events to be acknowledged and the dead to be memorialized properly.

Historians note that the militia had sought revenge for the earlier killings of several settlers by Indians. Sand Creek survivors witnessed atrocities that forever will be remembered as dark moments in America’s Westward expansion. The attack on the native tribes was recognized almost immediately as criminal. Congress condemned it, President Abraham Lincoln fired territorial Gov. John Evans, and over the years the events of Nov. 29, 1864, would become the most hotly debated historical event in Colorado history.

“They called Indians savages back then. If there were any savages that day, it was not the Indian people,” said former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe and a sponsor of the legislation creating the historic site.

Congressional authorization and funding of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site indicates how far the nation has come since the days of the white and red wars. At the April 29 site-dedication ceremony, members and friends of the Cheyenne and Arapaho gathered at the site of the Sand Creek massacre to celebrate national recognition of the land that holds deep meaning for the tribes, and for the first time since the massive loss of life, an American flag flew over the site.



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