The history of this event was virtually ignored among public attention. It took over 100 years for attention to develop. Initial interests were to establish a historical marker. In 1998 there was action taken to establish a historical site at the location. Eventually a National Park Service Historical Site was established. Even the United Methodist Church began to address the connection it had to the events.
In 2012, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church adopted an Act of Repentance Toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples. It recognized that there are times in our history as the UMC when our forefathers and mothers were complicit in perpetrating or condoning acts that were not examples of Christian charity. But even these efforts have not increased public awareness of the events of that tragedy.
My trip to Sand Creek was made with a friend and colleague in ministry. We set out to visit Sand Creek and the Amache Internment Camp National Historic Site. Sand Creek is situated on an isolated piece of property off of the state highway a few miles.
The trip up the dirt road seems to be leading to nowhere. Over a couple of cattle guards and through the miles of scrub, there is a dry creek bed that bends slightly from its north-south course to run nearly east-west. The National Park Service office and maintenance buildings are the point of entry. There is a trail that leads to a monument and bluff that looks over the landscape of where the massacre happened.
It takes little to imagine the events when you know the details of what happened.
We stood and tried to imagine how the attack unfolded. We tried to picture where the escape route the victims attempted to flee along would take them. But the silence reminded us that this was sacred ground. There was something that took place here that served to scar the history of our people, white and indigenous, citizens of nation and tribes, all of us human beings and of sacred worth.
I would never claim something that is not mine. I cannot claim the terror or the shared history of the survivors of this encampment. I cannot pretend to understand the stigma that the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux, Kiowa, and other tribes experienced in this region of the world I call home. But I can claim kinship on the basis of humanity. I can understand that all people deserve to be treated with grace and kindness, and not terror or death.
This place is a reminder that at times we are not the best that God created us to be. Even among those who claim belief in the same Christ, we are not always completely faithful to his example. This place is not just a place that points to a scar in our history. It is also a place that reminds us that peace is a necessity. We can change our future based on the experiences of the past.
I have to give a huge thank you to the rangers who were on site that day. They took time to talk with us and share the story of what is known about the events.
I also want to share the links that I used to research the trip:
- Colorado Experience: Sand Creek Massacre - YouTube
- PBS - THE WEST - Documents on the Sand Creek Massacre (1864-1865)
- John M. Chivington
- John M. Chivington's Defense: To the People of Colorado
- Captain Silas S. Soule report to Maj. Edward Wynkoop | Sand Creek
- The Sand Creek Massacre » Silas Soule
- Silas S. Soule | Two Letters Regarding the Sand Creek Massacre
- Testimony of Captain Silas S. Soule - Kansas Memory
- Lieutenant Joseph A. Cramer letter to Major Edward Wynkoop
- Chivington Massacre.
- Sand Creek Massacre - War of the Rebellion Records - Engagement on Sand Creek, November 29, 1864
- The Sand Creek Massacre Report of the Secretary of War - p. 184 - 228
- Sand Creek Massacre |
- Google Maps
- Prologue: Selected Articles
- Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)
- Basic Information - Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)
- Sand Creek Massacre Tips on Traveling to the Site
- Sand Creek Massacre Bibliography - Government Records and Articles
I offer these that anyone interested may read about what took place. I encourage you to visit the Site for yourself. I hope you will learn about the history of the conflict between the indigenous people, those who moved into their territories, and the governments efforts. We learn from our past - the wise decisions and the poor choices. The events of Sand Creek, the Washita River, Little Bighorn, and Wounded Knee are not memories of a more ignorant time. They are still reflected in the attitudes and treatment people still receive today.