Changing names and removing plaques are not going to erase past horrors. What they might do is make it easier for people to forget that the horrors ever happened or to never learn of them at all. Patricia Calhoun discusses the creation of a fitting monument to those who lost their lives at Sand Creek Massacre: http://www.westword.com/news/remembering-the-sand-creek-massacre-the-past-is-always-with-us-7387126
Listen to Megan Verlee of CPR discuss the planned Sand Creek Massacre Memorial at the Colorado Capitol: https://www.cpr.org/news/story/tribes-seek-sand-creek-massacre-memorial-colorados-capitol
Last Thursday members of the Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho, and the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes began the 17th annual Spiritual healing run at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, northeast of Eads, Colorado. The run, which is considered a prayer rather than a race, continued three days and nearly 175 miles to the Colorado capitol in Denver. There were presentations at Riverside Cemetery, Colorado’s oldest operating cemetery and the burial place of Captain Silas Soule, and 15th & Arapahoe Ave at the Captain Silas Soule Memorial Plaque, which hangs at the location Soule was assassinated as a result of his testimony against John Chivington. The run was led by two Eagle Staffs, Cheyenne and Arapaho, representing prayers of healing and reconciliation for the ancestors of those killed at Sand Creek. All participants walked the last mile to the Colorado capitol where Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper declared November 26th-29th official days of remembrance, spoke on the importance of constructing a memorial to the Sand Creek Massacre, and announced the addition of land to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. “This memorial will make the truth of what happened at Sand Creek tangible and real, as if it was a historic building,” said Governor Hickenlooper at this morning’s ceremony on the capitol steps.
Support the creation of the Sand Creek Massacre Memorial on the capitol grounds by giving to Remember Sand Creek or by attending the Sand Creek Memorial Fundraiser at the Governor’s mansion on Tuesday December 1st from 5:30-7:30. Register here: http://remembersandcreek.org/shop/ .
Over 150 years after 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho were slaughtered in the Sand Creek Massacre, a memorial at the Colorado State Capitol to remember this chapter in our history is that much closer to reality.
See the full article in the Denver Post: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_29177640/fundraiser-sand-creek-memorial-at-state-capitol-is
The past is coming full circle, writes Patricia Calhoun of Denver Westword. See the full article: http://www.westword.com/news/the-sand-creek-massacre-could-be-remembered-with-a-permanent-memorial-at-the-colorado-capitol-7367683
U.S. Senator – Retired President
Ben Nighthorse Consultants, Inc.
Former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell will be a guest speaker at our fundraising event December 1st.
Heserved 12 years (two terms) in the United States Senate. Prior to his service in the Senate, Campbell served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, preceded by two terms in the Colorado Legislature.
During his time in the U.S. Senate, Ben Nighthorse Campbell was a prolific legislator. In the 106th Congress, Senator Campbell ranked #1, out of 535 combined members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House, passing the most freestanding legislation into public law. In the course of his career, he was responsible for the creation of two National Parks, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Great Sand Dunes. Ben Nighthorse Campbell is also the only member in congressional history to have authorized the creation of two National Museums, National Museum of the American Indian and National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum. Such accomplishments could only be achieved due to his thorough understanding of the legislative process and his ability to work effectively on both sides of the aisle to achieve results.
Senator Campbell served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (the only American Indian in history to chair the committee), and during his tenure, the committee passed more bipartisan, pro-Indian legislation that in any similar period in American history. Republican Campbell and his Democrat Vice-Chair Daniel Inouye worked hand-in-hand to ensure that every major piece of legislation that moved in congress had an Indian component included in it. Indian Country benefitted in areas such as health care, education, transportation, energy and water through their efforts. He is also well versed in Federal Recognition issues, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and Economic Development issues in Indian Country.
Senator Campbell served as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he also served as chairman of the Treasury, Postal and General Government subcommittee which, at that time, oversaw funding of not only the Treasury Department and Postal Service, but many of the nation’s federal law enforcement agencies. As a former law enforcement officer, this allowed him to work to ensure the safety of our country’s law enforcement officers and the citizens they serve. One notable accomplishment was passage of the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Act, which allowed small police forces, sheriff’s departments and tribal law enforcement entities to apply for matching funds to make lifesaving bulletproof vests affordable for officers. As an appropriator during a strong fiscal period, Campbell was able to assist states, municipalities, and worthy organizations in their efforts to assist all Americans. He was also chairman of the Legislative Branch subcommittee and sat on the Transportation subcommittee, Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary subcommittee, Foreign Operations subcommittee, Homeland Security subcommittee, and Interior subcommittee.
Senator Campbell served as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and has a strong understanding of the issues facing energy producers and consumers, as well as public land and resource management. Coming from a western state, Campbell is acutely aware of the importance of sound water policy and worked to develop and protect key water resources in the west. He served as Vice Chairman of the Water and Power subcommittee, along with his service on the National Parks subcommittee and Public Lands and Forests subcommittee.
Senator Campbell, as a veteran himself, was proud to serve on the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee.
Senator Campbell also served as Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the “Helsinki Commission”.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe where he is honored to serve on the Council of Forty-Four Chiefs. Prior to his years of government service, Ben is a graduate of San Jose State University, and was a Special Research student at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan. He was proud to serve his country as an Air Policeman in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War; and as Captain of the U.S. Olympic Judo Team at the 1964 Games in Tokyo. He is a distinguished recipient of the ‘Ellis Island Medal of Freedom’ and was bestowed the ‘Order of the Rising Sun’ by Emperor Akihito of Japan.His varied and interesting life has also seen him work as a Farm Laborer, Truck Driver, Deputy Sheriff, Prison Counselor, School Teacher, Trainer of Champion Quarter Horses, Rancher, Award-Winning Jeweler, Small Businessman, and well-known motorcycle enthusiast. It should be noted, Senator Campbell is not just a ‘former’ truck driver, Ben was the only U.S. Senator who possessed a CDL, and twice delivered the National Christmas Tree from Colorado to Washington, DC and still enjoys relaxing behind the wheel of his big truck.
Today, as President of Ben Nighthorse Consultants, Inc., Senator Campbell embraces the opportunity to stay involved in public policy, using his vast experiences and resources on behalf of his clients to assist them in navigating the legislative process of Capitol Hill, and the administrative process of the Executive Branch, working with leaders of both parties to help them achieve successful resolution.
Painter and teacher Seidel Standing Elk is a member of the Remember Sand Creek Memorial design committee. Standing Elk is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation and a descendant of the So-taaeo-o.
“I think the public should know what happened back then,” said Standing Elk about the Sand Creek Massacre. “Historically, it is very powerful.”
Standing Elk’s art is a diversity of reflections of the values, visions, dreams and stories told to him by his family, relatives, and elders of the Cheyenne.
Billy J. Stratton, associate professor of English at the University of Denver, discusses the memorialization of the Sand Creek Massacre in comparison to holocaust memorials in Würzburg, Germany. The article explores how easily people can forget the past, and even actively avoid it, unable to face the burden of public displays of responsibility. Stratton discusses the need to recognize, reflect on, and understand history, as well as the capacity of memorials to provide healing through honest engagement with the past.
It has taken us hundreds of years to come to terms with the damage done. True memorials liberate us from forgetting
Along the horizon-chasing highways of Wyoming stand 88 signs commemorating the routes taken by Arapaho and Cheyenne people who escaped the brutality of the Sand Creek Massacre. This brazen attack on a peaceful encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho people, carried out by the Methodist minister/Col. John Chivington, took place in southern Colorado territory on Nov. 29, 1864—a date the eminent Cheyenne scholar, and survivor descendant, Henrietta Mann has described as being “seared forever in my DNA.” Spanning well into the next day, soldiers under Chivington’s command murdered as many as 200 people, the majority consisting of women, children and elderly, on that expansive shortgrass prairie. According to the National Park Service, the massacre site encompassed an area of more than 45 square miles.
Stretching from the Colorado border to the Northern Arapaho’s Wind River Reservation, and connecting the towns of Medicine Bow, Casper, Riverton, Arapahoe to Ethete, the austere commemorative signs recall one of the most infamous chapters in 19th century American history. Authorized by the Wyoming state Senate in 2002 with the passage of the Sand Creek Massacre Trail joint resolution, the 88 sheet metal signs, including two detailed interpretive panels, were conceived to“support relations with the Arapahoe tribe, and tourism …” Although some may consider this gesture trivial or even inconsequential, for many of the region’s Arapaho residents, particularly descendants of those who were at Sand Creek on that day such as Gail Ridgley, the signs affirm the capacity of “historical remembrance, educational awareness, and spiritual healing of the Arapaho people.” The Sand Creek Massacre Trail was dedicated on Aug. 16, 2006, which is 141 years, eight months and 19 days after the massacre occurred.
One hundred and forty-one years is certainly a long time to wait for tribal memories to achieve the status of historic fact, much less an official public apology—one that Cheyenne and Arapaho people have yet to receive. But the recognition afforded by memorials such as Wyoming’s demonstrate the power of a memory that fuels an enduring presence in the face of victimry and deracination. The memorialization of the Sand Creek Massacre Trail is an essential expression of what the White Earth Chippewa writer, Gerald Vizenor, has called Native survivance, which emerges as a product of historical agency, resistance and perseverance. Indeed, the placing of these simple markers are important gestures and the people are honored by them.
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Five thousand miles away a soft-curving section of sidewalk along Freidrich-Ebert-Ring in Würzburg, Germany, bears the inscription: Wir Wollen Erinnern. Following a portion of the route that Jewish citizens of the town were forced to march on the way to the train station where they would be deported to ghettos and concentration camps between the years 1941 and 1943, these words, “we want to remember,” convey an active sense of presence that is intended to function as a resolute witness to the unimaginable.
Nearby, on the same street following along the southern edge of the verdant Ringpark—where Würzburg’s besieged residents sought refuge during the bombing of the city by the British Royal Air Force on March 16, 1945—there is a memorial sculpture depicting a scattering of shoes as if hurriedly left on a set of steps. The dates of six deportations of Jewish people from Würzburg, with their destinations, are inscribed on placards affixed to the façade: Nov. 27, 1941: Skirotawa/Riga; March 24, 1942: Trawniki/Lublin; April 25, 1942: Izbica/Lublin, Sept. 10, 1942: Theresienstadt; Sept. 23, 1943: Theresienstadt; and June 17, 1943: Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. The bombing by the British Air Force occurred one year, nine months after the last reported mass deportation of Jewish citizens from Würzburg.
* * *
In front of the north entrance to the Colorado State Capitol building in Denver rises an 8-foot bronze statue of a union soldier set atop a concrete pedestal known as the Civil War Memorial. On one of the plaques affixed to this monument, “SAND CREEK, COLO. 1864,” is included in a list under the heading: “Battles and Engagements.” This memorial, designed by Captain John D. Howland and sculpted by Jakob Otto Schwiezer, was commissioned by the Colorado Pioneers Association and unveiled on July 24, 1909, 44 years, seven months, and 26 days after the massacre occurred. Nearby, however, after years of efforts by Arapaho and Cheyenne people to have their story told, another plaque recognizes the deeply fraught nature of such classifications and the assertion that the memorial “has become a symbol of Coloradans’ struggle to understand and take responsibility for our past.”
The location of the massacre itself is managed by the National Park Service and is officially known as the Sand Creek National Historic Site. It is unique in the inventory of federal land, having the distinction as the only massacre site officially recognized as a United States National Park. It was dedicated on April 27, 2007, 142 years, four months, and 30 days after the massacre occurred.
* * *
I’d resided in the picturesque German city of Würzburg, nestled on the border of the Lower Franconian wine country, while assigned as a Fulbright lecturer at Julius-Maximilians-Universität. I’d come with much hesitation at the urging of my father, who was in the process of dying of lung cancer, for a four-month assignment to teach courses on Native American fiction and the literature of the American West. His father had told him stories about Italy and Germany from his experiences in the American 5th Army during World War II, but my father had never been to Europe. I was there for him, to “see the place and feel the ground.” He’d given me the commemorative medal engraved with an image of Mount Vesuvius that his father had brought back from the war and that he’d worn for most of his life.
Both of my classes were enrolled beyond capacity and the students displayed much enthusiasm for the texts assigned for each course, reflecting historic European interest in such curious and exotic topics. As we delved into Native American stories and discussions of the frontier I noticed that numerous students displayed a particular interest in America’s so-called Indian Wars, and especially the seemingly ubiquitous massacres that mar this period of our collective national history. Several asked why the world didn’t look upon the United States for its treatment of Native people in a similar way that Germany is still viewed in the aftermath of World War II? It was a shrewd question, but one spoken with zeal and emotion, while also as a repudiation of what one student referred to as Kollektivschuld. Denoting collective guilt, this term also invokes the notion of cultural “debt,” and for some Germans, this guilt and debt is of a sort that can never be absolved or recompensed. I carried this question with me for the rest of my stay in Europe and then brought it back to the United States. I have yet to reach a satisfactory answer, but the question has come to inform my thinking in the days and months since. In one of our last conversations, I told my father of a visit I’d taken to Naples, Italy, the city his father entered on Oct. 1, 1943. My father died 10 hours after I arrived at the sterile white room hospice where he passed his final days, which was 69 years, 10 months and nine days after the Allied liberation of Napoli.
* * *
Along Interstate 96 in southeastern Colorado there is a small hamlet in Kiowa County named Chivington. Founded in 1887, 23 years after the massacre occurred, this settlement lies approximately nine miles from the site where most of the killing took place. Named after the minister-officer who commanded the soldiers responsible for the massacre, Chivington enjoyed a few years of prosperity brought by the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, but then fell into a slow decline after the turn of the century. It stands today as a different sort of memorial that has been given over to the shadowy tracings of intractable attitudes and profound blindness; there are no longer any services in Chivington, and only a handful of occupied homes remain among the invading tumbleweed, scrub and buffalo grass, where antelope and coyote roam. But there are no buffalo on the plains surrounding this place.
The acknowledgment of historic wrongs, especially where marginalized people are concerned, is often slow in coming in an America raised on victory culture, where war and progress have become irreproachable synonyms of a sort. It is, however, deeply traumatic events such as the Sand Creek Massacre and the ways in which we remember and memorialize them that lay bare the ironies of frontier historicism, where the gulf that lies between stagnant orthodoxies and nuanced accounts of interlinked stories and experiences can seem interminable.
* * *
For the first two weeks of my stay in Würzburg I’d failed to notice the haunting sense of presence that the modest plaques were designed to assert. A German friend and colleague had also pointed out to me several Stolpersteine, or “stumbling stones,” which are unadorned memorials created by the Cologne artist Gunter Demnig. These memorials evolved out of an idea that was first given substance in 1992 with an engraving made into a sidewalk to commemorate the deportation of Sinti and Roma to extermination camps at the direction of Heinrich Himmler. The unveiling of this artistic gesture was done to mark the 50th anniversary of Himmler’s order. By the following year Demnig had adapted the technique, engraving the names of murdered Jewish people, as an instrument of remembrance for individual victims of the Holocaust. The brass-covered cobblestones bear witness to the vast “horror” of the crimes committed against the Jewish people of Germany, which “began in the apartments and buildings” that they considered home. Since then over 40,000 10-by-10 cm memorials have been placed in sidewalks throughout Germany, and at least nine other European nations, in front of the last known residences of the deported. An individual’s name, birth year and place of death is inscribed upon eachStolpersteine, urging remembrance through reference to the intimacy of identity rather than the abstraction of unspeakable sums.
As I became aware of the presence of these memorials on the streets of Würzburg in early May, and began to read and attempt to memorize the names inscribed there, I wondered how I could have failed to notice them from the beginning of my stay. For those first few weeks Demnig’s stark testimonials had escaped notice on my daily wanderings along the winding streets; they had not caused me to “stumble.”
* * *
As an American not accustomed to public displays of the burden of historical responsibility, perhaps I had not been prepared to see such an unequivocal approach to such trauma. I had, however, experienced an acute sense of anguish in the presence of the sculpture of a human arm formed out of the bodies of suffering prisoners that reached skyward out of a tranquil pond at the Holocaust Memorial of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. I’d also been moved while standing before and walking among the stelae at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, and yet I had failed to notice Demnig’s cobblestones. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe opened 60 years and nine days after the capture of the Reichstag by Russian soldiers during the Battle of Berlin.
* * *
I wondered if my inability to see what was inscribed on the very ground I’d walked upon was the natural aftereffect of an upbringing in a nation where the meaning and nature of events that occurred at Sand Creek, the Marias River, and Wounded Knee are still heavily contested, or worse yet, ignored. Where the shadow of war retains the capacity to efface the stain of injustice and to transform massacres of women, children and the infirm into commonplace frontier skirmishes in which the very meaning of progress and civilization is presented as hanging in the balance. Indeed, America is not lacking in memorials. But those grand monuments of soldiers frozen in the poses of war—mythological national heroes balanced upon charging horses, and tragic indian figures riding off into what we are taught to see as a darkening horizon—act to codify rather than question, obscure rather than evoke, and ultimately venerate rather than reconcile.
* * *
After becoming aware of Demnig’s Stolpersteine, I also began to notice that some Germans seemed to actively avoid the acknowledgment of their presence. Of course, testimonials such as these draw attention to the burdens attached to German property and the deportation of its rightful Jewish owners, proving, perhaps, too much to bear just as some Americans remain steadfast in their refusal to acknowledge what occurred at Sand Creek as a massacre, or recognize Native claims to a land that was often violently and illegally appropriated. As I began to search out the stumbling stones of the people Demnig had given a means to remember—Reinstein, Gutmann, Stahl, Hellmann, Adler, Frankenfelder, Häfner … —and to suffer the sense of profound absence evoked by those names—the anxiety created by my own recognition of these memorials in the midst of my German neighbors was felt. In the act of observing the ways in which these memorials had become naturalized and rendered imperceptible, I wondered if Demnig’s project had failed.
* * *
The doubts I harbored led me back to the tangled matters about the responsibility of perceptions, the value of knowledge, and the collective duty we all share to the memory of the past that dwells at places like Sand Creek. What did these memorials accomplish if people could not or would not see or acknowledge them? Did such devices as small brass cobblestones or metal highway signs really amount to anything of significance; a collection of objects voided of meaning within a proliferation of images where the function of penance far outweighs the mantra of “never again” in the transfiguration of monuments into cynical sites of historical flagellation? This must not be; thoughtful and caring people cannot bear to allow it. The names engraved on the Stolpersteine, like the 88 signs that follow the highways of Wyoming, testify to different times and histories that linger as horrific specters that plague the psyches of Europeans and Americans alike, where the physical anchors of memory call out from the darkness and demand to be known. And they must be. Not simply or even primarily to condemn historical violence, but to overcome the tyranny of silence and forgetfulness that conspires to forestall healing and inhibit the sense of empathy that is essential to a shared understanding of the past.
* * *
The monument dedicated to the Sand Creek Massacre sits low to the ground, like a tombstone on the bluff above the place where Black Kettle’s band was camped. Engraved with a Native figure—a caricature really, adorned in a feathered headdress—we are now beyond a time when the words, “SAND CREEK BATTLE GROUND” can be read without irony. The binding of these images and words are disorienting in a way that contrasts with a large metal sign I was met with outside the Wittenbergplatz Untergrundbahn station in Berlin listing 12 concentration camps in Europe as “Orte des Schreckens, die wir niemals vergessen dürfen,” or Sites of Horror, we must never forget.” In the former case, the configuration that renders massacres as battles, battles as wars, and wars as just, conveys just such a kind of historical lie that Americans would also do well not to forget. For in all such acts of forgetting is instigated an even more subtle but violent act of erasure. The granite monument to Sand Creek was placed by local citizens on Aug. 6, 1950, 85 years, eight months and nine days after the massacre occurred. The site was part of a private ranch at the time.
The reason I minded my dad’s request and left him in that hospital room thinner than I’d ever seen him, was to provide a means through which his stories and his father’s stories could unite upon the land where a part of himself had been lost in the fear and horror of war. I would like to think that through my travels from Sand Creek to Würzburg and back again, I not only came to understand why my father thought it so important for me to feel that ground, but by that experience I have also gained a deeper understanding of the history of the place where I now live and work. For we are all similarly lost when we assent to a narrative that is designed to eradicate the memories and experiences of others, and in such acts the long and arduous process of healing is obstructed. As both Native American and Jewish people know, true healing can only be achieved through the honest engagement with the past; and it is through such memorials that we can begin to be liberated from the tyranny of silence, forgetting and absence.
To see the original post, go to SALON.
The 17th Annual Spiritual Healing Run will be held from Thursday, November 26th through Sunday, November 29th, the anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre. The healing run was started in 1999 by the late Lee Lone Bear, when President Clinton signed the law establishing the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. “The main purpose is healing…dealing with the trauma today, and also to honor and never forget what our ancestors went through,” said Vanessa Braided Hair in an interview with Mike Sandrock for the Daily Camera. The run begins at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site near Eads, CO and continues nearly 175 miles along the route Colonel Chivington and his men took back to Denver, ending at the west side Colorado State Capitol, where Governor HIckenlooper will speak. According to Otto Braided Hair the run is meant to “clean the area, the path all the way to Denver, to help if any spirit is along the way.” The Remember Sand Creek Initiative also seeks to honor the victims of the massacre by creating a memorial to the Sand Creek Massacre on the capitol grounds at the end of the Spiritual Healing Run. See the itinerary for the Spiritual Healing Run below:
The Northern Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, and Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, in partnership with the One Earth Future foundation, have launched Remember Sand Creek – a campaign to create a permanent memorial at the Colorado State Capitol honoring the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Remember Sand Creek supporter, said “there needs to be a permanent memorial to the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre at the Colorado State Capitol, not only to tell the story to the public, but also to remind future generations of Colorado lawmakers of the pain caused by broken promises and racially-motivated violence that still affect the Cheyenne and Arapaho people to this day.”
The memorial’s design aims to remind the 250,000 annual visitors to the State Capitol not only that the Sand Creek Massacre took place but that it continues to reverberate throughout the Cheyenne and Arapaho communities.
“I think it’s important that the people of Denver and the people of Colorado understand the history of what really happened and the emotions of the Native American people that are involved as ancestors,” noted Cheyenne and Arapaho artist Harvey Pratt, who was chosen by the tribal representatives to design and create the memorial. “We just want to bring history to light. We want people to understand that there was more that happened than what was told.”
“As the saying goes, ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’” said Marcel Arsenault, whose foundation is funding half of the total cost of the memorial. “Colorado’s willingness to come to terms with its past is enormously hopeful, since acknowledging our mistakes is the only way to overcome them.”
A fundraising effort is underway at RememberSandCreek.org. Visitors can contribute any amount to be matched, purchase a signed photograph of the memorial, or buy a ticket to a fundraiser at the Governor’s Mansion on December 1, from 5:30 – 7:30p.m.
The final design of the memorial is subject to the approval of the Capitol Building Advisory Committee, which will review the application on November 20.