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Sand Creek Massacre
By Claywoman   

Last edited: Tuesday, July 02, 2002
Posted: Tuesday, July 02, 2002

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A part of history not usually told and often forgotten...

Dawn, November 29, 1858 broke over the encampment of Black Kettle’s people. This band of Cheyenne was camped here at this small creek to parlay a treaty with the troops. They wanted to sign a peace treaty and to find someplace they could call their own. Dawn, the air was crisp, and almost everyone was sleeping or just rousing from sleep. The dogs slept and dreamt puppy dreams. All was quiet; one woman was up early and went to the creek to get water when she heard the sounds; the sounds of many horses with iron trappings galloping toward the camp. She sounded an alarm and screamed the camp awake. Stumbling out of teepees half-dressed warriors reached for their bows and arrows or their rifles, women screamed with in turn made the child cry out in terror. Then the shooting started and the blood flowed. And the dawn turned red with the slain lying around and the wounded trying to get away.

The attack came not from soldiers although soldiers were present, but from the Colorado Militia headed by Colonel John Chivington. Chivington, a known Indian hater, answered a soldier’s inquiry as to whether or not they should spare the women and children with, “from nits come lice.” No woman or child was to be spared the slaughter. Black Kettle who thought he was there to negotiate peace gathered what women and children he could under the banner of the American Flag once given him and the white flag of surrender. That made them an easy target for the soldiers and they were amongst the first to be gunned down. Black Kettle somehow survived the onslaught and searched amongst the bodies for his wife who was still living and dragged her to safety. Cannons and gunfire killed more then got away that bitterly cold but clear day.

Some made their way to the creek and got away by burying themselves in the banks and others made their way down the creek and away from the scene, but most of the Indians died where they slept. Then the mutilations occurred. The vigilantes cut the breasts off of women and the penis’s off the men and took them home as souvenirs. Between 100 and 125 men, women and children died that cold, crisp, winter’s day. Women died clutching their dead children, and men died trying to shield their women. Some of the dead women suckled dead children with their bodies frozen forever in that position. It was the day Colorado declared war on the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians and started on a path of extermination. Why? For the oldest reason of all, greed for the gold that lay in the lands of the Indians.

What prisoners were taken were killed along with any wounded found. One of the Indian scouts, Jack Smith was told his son was one of the prisoners and would be shot. He went to talk to Chivington who turned and in front of the father, shot his son in the head. Jack Smith turned and walked away and never scouted for the army again. He did give testimony before the Senate Hearing Committee and his testimony is some of the most damning testimony given in this case.

At the start of this essay, it was stated that Federal troops rode with the militia troops, commanded by Silas Soule; they accompanied Chivington’s troops. When ordered to fire on the helpless Indians Soule refused to order his men to fire. Stationed near the creek, it was through his efforts that so many of the villagers actually got away. Chivington was furious and threatened Soule with court martial. But although most of the citizens of Colorado supported Chivington in his endeavors, most of the nations and some of the citizens of Colorado were sickened by the news accounts of the atrocities. An outcry reverberated across the nation. The governor, who had visions of becoming the first senator once Colorado became a state, ended up losing the election. Chivington who wanted to be the governor slipped into obscurity once it was determined that the Federal government could not prosecute him for the crimes because he gave up his commission before charged. Soule, the soldier who defied an order was assassinated on the steps of the courthouse before he could give testimony in a federal hearing. The Indian scout, whose son was shot in the head by Chivington, drank himself to death. This was just one massacre that few remember…


Elliott West, The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado, (University Press of Kansas, 1998)

Sand Creek Massacre. Report of the Secretary of War, Senate Exec. Doc. 26. 39th Dong. 2d sess. 1867.

Reader Reviews for "Sand Creek Massacre"

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Reviewed by nancy erickson (Reader) 10/31/2004
Well reported article. I am always pleased when I see the truth printed about the atrocities done to the American Indian given for all to see. I am proud to call you an American.
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 8/14/2002
super job, as always, claywoman! thank you for the kind reviews!! love, and ((HUGS)), your friend, karen lynn. god's blessings upon you; i am proud to call you my friend!
Reviewed by Janet Caldwell 7/4/2002
Once again, I am honored to read your work. You my friend are so very talented and a credit to the art-world.

Love, Janet xoxoxoxo
Reviewed by Dens Dreamweaver (Reader) 7/4/2002
Thank you so much for such an informative article Claywoman. It is amazing the atrocities that some were made to suffer...

Love and Light
Reviewed by Marjorie Coogle (Reader) 7/3/2002
I am speechless. I did not know this. Why? How? How could one person hate so much?
Reviewed by Lawrance Lux 7/3/2002
The events described are absolutely accurate, but a further statement should be made about the outlaw nature of the Colorado Militia. This Militia shortly became the Colorado National Guard, and were hired by John D. Rockefeller to kill or wound 341 Miners, or their wives and children; all because the Miners were on strike. A considerable number were the same men.
Reviewed by Amor Sabor 7/3/2002
This is just one of many senseless massacres that were revealed because there were survivors to give testimony. Imagine the ones where no witnesses were left. It appears you have culled much imformation and research on this particular account. It is well written and presented.

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Return of the Canoe Societies: Second Edition by Rosemary Patterson

A riveting Literary History and adventure novel that celebrates the cultural resurgence of Coastal First Nations peoples...  
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