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Sand Creek Massacre: The injustice that affected women and children

Sand Creek Massacre: The injustice that affected women and children

Hello all!

I have been relatively absent this week on my site, as an infection of some sort left me with no energy and a very tenacious cough. If you follow my Facebook page you will have seen some posts about intergenerational trauma, residential schools and healing and reconciliation. More to come in another post. But for today, I want to continue talking about the history of trauma and genocides the Native people have gone through. Oftentimes, in the name of land, of who would have the most of it. So let’s explore an event that is called the Sand Creek Massacre.

sand creek massacre

Before 1864

The Era

Let’s place a bit of context around the massacre. Turtle Island was already in a full on undeclared war for the land. The US Army and the US government were on a mission to get the land from the Indigenous people. Thousands of Cherokees had already been displaced and forced off their land during what is now referred to as the Trail of Tears in 1830. Then President Andrew Jackson approved the Indian Removal Act, which basically allowed him to remove any tribes living east of the Mississippi River. They say about 45 000 First Nation people were removed from their home, forced to take a journey on a treacherous terrain. Many left their life behind and later lost it out of hunger, fatigue, exhaustion or sickness. Jackson’s Indian Removal Act marked the beginning of the Removal Era.

Indeed, disputes over land were rampant. This was before the Indian Act of 1876, which officially confined Native people on reserves, an experience they never had before. As to them, there was no need for reserves. There was just land, their land. Why put boundaries on a land that was theirs, right? 

Lindneaux painting of the massacre

Lindneaux painting of the Sand Creek Massacre

Well a series of treaties followed, which promised numerous things to Native people, only to screw them over later on. Sorry, but there is no other way to say it. In 1861, another treaty was written with the Cheyenne and Arapaho nations. The treaty of Fort Wise. As expected, the treaty’s result was land taken away from the Cheyenne and Arapaho, land that was given to them with previous treaties. What were they left with you ask? About 1/13th of their previous land. Why did they sign it then? Well, remember the context here. Chiefs were trying to maintain peace and to keep their people safe. But of course, not everyone was happy about the results of the Fort Wise treaty. In particular, a group named Dog Solders was greatly opposed to having the White man living on indigenous land. Tension was high.

What happened in 1864

Keeping the land was important to Indian chiefs but so was trying to keep the peace. Enough blood had been shed (if only they knew it was only the beginning). So in September of 1864, Arapaho and Cheyenne chiefs met with the US military to seek peace east of Denver. You can see a group picture below.

delegation of Cheyenne and Arapaho

delegation of Arapaho and Cheyenne chiefs

However, things did not go as planned. Otherwise there would not have been a massacre…Therefore, in November of 1864, commander Colonel John Chivington, with the okay of governor John Evans began his attack on the Cheyenne tribes in Colorado. Simultaneously, more Cheyenne camps were being attacked in Kansas under the supervision of Lieutenant George S. Eayre.

Nevertheless, the Native people being peaceful people, still had peace on their mind. Chiefs Black Kettle and White Antelope tried to establish a truce. Both chiefs received advice to establish camp at a certain spot and to fly the American flag as a sign of peace. The flag was supposed to represent friendliness. On November 29, 1864, when most men were out hunting, the cavalry of Colonel Chivington and his 700 troops descended upon the camp.

National Park service brochure

National historic site brochure from the National Park Service

The result? About 150-200 Indians died that day. Even though a white flag was put up, and the men were out hunting, the massacre occurred. Most victims were women and kids. Moreover, many of them were mutilated and paraded down the streets of Denver by dear Colonel Chivington. Even though eyewitnesses obviously were present, no charges were ever laid.

Sand Creek Massacre

So there you have it. It feels like history repeating itself… The Native people, the Indigenous people of the land, wishing for peace and getting massacred instead. I am sorry if it sounds abrupt but it is what happened. And unfortunately, it was not over after the Sand Creek Massacre. More genocides were to come, including the very sad battle of Wounded Knee. We are talking years and years of stealing of the land, of deaths, unnecessary deaths, innocents losing their lives. We have come a long way since (with more misery in between) but there is some healing taking place. There is resilience in the people. So much of it. The Red Man will rise again. He is rising.

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