In 1864 in southeastern Colorado, more than 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe members, mostly women, children and elderly people, were killed in an unprovoked attack led by Colonel John Chivington. Although the U.S. government quickly denounced Chivington's actions as a national disgrace, no memorial distinguishes the site from its surroundings. More than a century later, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., has proposed legislation to make the Sand Creek Massacre a national historic site.
"(Sand Creek) is clearly a nationally
significant event," says Rick Frost of the National Park Service.
"It triggered a long Plains war and was a seminal event in the
history of Western expansion." With the help of the Northern and
Southern Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes, the Park Service located the
massacre site and recommended management strategies for its
Steve Brady, president of the Sand Creek
Descendants of the Northern Cheyenne, says the massacre symbolizes
the long periods of forced assimilation tribes have endured.
"(Chivington) was riding into the village with a Bible in one hand
and a sword in the other, in the name of God and country," he says.
Brady says the land belongs to the tribes under
the 1851 Fort Laramie and the 1861 Fort Wise treaties, although
today the entire 12,480 acres of the massacre site are privately
owned. At this point, only a central 1,500-acre plot is up for
James Doyle, communications director for
Campbell, says the proposed legislation will first preserve the
core 1,500 acres as a national monument, and leave room to add more
land if sellers become willing. Campbell hopes to push the bill
through before the end of this