ghosts of Sand Creek may finally rest in peace.
The healing at the massacre site in southeastern
Colorado may begin now that a private donor is paying $1.5 million
to purchase a privately owned ranch where U.S. soldiers slaughtered
163 Native Americans 138 years ago.
Most of those killed were unarmed women
and children. The soldiers dismembered their victims and paraded
around Colorado with body parts and scalps as trophies.
"We never imagined that we could
ever come back to Colorado and have the opportunity to repossess
a place where our people were massacred in 1864," said Robert
P. Tabor, chairman of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes of Oklahoma.
For Native Americans, Sand Creek is like
the hallowed ground at the World Trade Center.
"It's a similar feeling to what the
terrorists have done to all of us. We have been carrying this feeling
for over a century. Each time we think of it, it touches us very
deeply," Tabor said.
"This will give us an opportunity
as individuals and as a tribe to go there and mourn," Tabor
said. "It's a healing process that we're going to start after
more than a century. That process will actually begin once we are
the owners of the land and we are able to walk there freely.
"We can't measure (the gift). It's
After decades of controversy over the
site, a private casino company has stepped in and resolved the matter
in less than a month.
Jim Druck is the president of Southwest
Casinos, a Minnesota-based company.
His company manages casinos in Oklahoma
for the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes. Druck lives in Colorado and
also owns three casinos in Cripple Creek. Druck has visited the
Sand Creek site and been deeply moved by the horror of what took
place there. He compared it to the Nazi concentration camps now
preserved in Germany.
When Druck learned from one of his managers
that William Dawson, the owner of the 1,465-acre ranch east of Eads,
was planning to sell his land to the highest bidder, Druck stepped
The federal government had been trying
to buy the land but was not willing to pay Dawson's price.
Druck convened a conference call with
his board members and 30 minutes later, they decided to purchase
the land and hand it over to the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indian tribes.
The purchase will be final within three
months. The tribes then plan to work with the National Park Service
to convert the land into part of the 12,470-acre Sand Creek Massacre
Historic Site, which already has been approved by Congress.
Sand Creek Massacre Site Project
The Cheyenne Descendants and the
Northern Cheyenne Tribe consider the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre
profoundly significant, it is one of the greatest tragedies
to mark relations between Indian and Anglo Americans. The
Sand Creek massacre remains an open wound for the Indian
people, Colorado History and U.S. History.
- THE WEST - Documents on the Sand Creek Massacre (1864-1865)
I. Two Editorials from the Rocky
Mountain News (1864)
II. Congressional testimony by
John S. Smith, an eyewitness to the massacre (1865)
III. Deposition by John M. Chivington
Library, Colorado College - Sand Creek Papers
The Sand Creek Massacre (November
29, 1864) is one of the most controversial Indian conflicts.
This event has been the subject of army and Congressional
investigations and inquiries, newspaper debates, the object
of much oratory and writing biased in both directions and
with bitter conflict between the men who were involved.
The Sand Creek Massacre was undertaken by citizen and military
troops from the Colorado Territory. Evidence is that Chivington
undertook the Indian expedition on his own and it did not
reflect official government policy. The era of the Indian
trader in Colorado came to an end with the Sand Creek Massacre.
The dominance of the Cheyennes and Arapahos to the land
east of the mountains was broken. Years of bloody battles
with the plains tribes followed.