At the height of the Civil War, the Sand Creek Massacre captures the tragic relationship between Native Americans and frontier settlers, including broken promises and racially-motivated violence. On November 29, 1864, approximately 675 United States soldiers killed more than 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho villagers who were living peacefully near Fort Lyon, Colorado, a place where American negotiators had assured they would be safe. Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle’s raised a US. ﬂag and a white ﬂag as symbols of peace, but Colonel John Chivington ignored the banners and ordered his troops to attack. Ambushed and outnumbered, the Cheyenne and Arapaho villagers fled on foot to the bottom of the dry stream bed. Many of them hiding by digging into the creek bed.
After eight hours, the shooting ﬁnally stopped and the village was pillaged and set ablaze. Most of the dead were women, children, and elderly men. Soldiers then mutilated the dead, carrying trophies back to Denver. The few survivors sought safety in neighboring camps, but the descendants’ lives were forever changed. Although the events at Big Sandy Creek were initially celebrated as a victory, they have since been acknowledged as a massacre by the governments of the United States and the state of Colorado.The Sand Creek Massacre deeply impacts the sovereign Tribal nations whose ancestors were massacred that tragic day, and preventing atrocities such as this in the future is imperative.
To learn more about the event that changed the plains forever, watch the Colorado Experience: Sand Creek Massacre documentary to the right or see the resources below.