A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek
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On November 29, 1864, over 150 Native Americans, mostly women, children, and elderly, were slaughtered in one of the most infamous cases of state-sponsored violence in U.S. history. Kelman examines how generations of Americans have struggled with the question of whether the nation’s crimes, as well as its achievements, should be memorialized.
(February 1906): 3–7; Bent, “Forty Years with the Cheyennes” (March 1906): 3–8. 69. “I don’t think …” from Bent to Hyde, February 28, 1906, Coe Collection. See also George Bent to George Hyde, January 24, 1906, Coe Collection; Bent to Hyde, March 6, 1913; Bent to Hyde, April 30, 1913; Bent to Hyde, July 14, 1913, Bent Letters, Western History and Genealogy, Denver Public Library, Denver, CO; Bent to Hyde, January 20, 1915, Coe Collection; Bent to Hyde, September 1, 1917, Coe Collection. 70.
possession. “The spirits can finally rest” from Gail Ridgely, Sand Creek representative, Northern Arapaho Tribe, interview by author, July 29, 2003, Denver, CO, tape recording, in author’s possession. “Generations will die out …” from Laird Cometsevah, chief, Southern Cheyenne Tribe, interview by author, May 12, 2003, Denver, CO, tape recording, in author’s possession. See also Jim Hughes, “Tribe Fetes Sand Creek Designation,” Denver Post, November 12, 2000, A-1. 2. “We now have …” from J.
were hostiles in that camp.” Political correctness run amok, he warned, would “dishonor people who fought in the Civil War.” Anyway, it did not matter, Koury continued, “whether [Sand Creek] was a massacre or not.” The men who fought there “were soldiers” who deserved to be hailed for their patriotism. After all, “they went where they were ordered to go and did what they were ordered to do.” Finally, Koury echoed Tom Noel: “Taking [Sand Creek] off a statue is not going to make it disappear. You
durability of traditional practices. For the descendants, recounting and documenting the massacre, tasks uplifting and unsettling, represented acts of courage, self-sacrifice, and tribal patriotism.55 Ultimately, the oral histories, because of their content, proved more useful to the tribes—particularly the traditionalists involved in the site search—than to the NPS. Many storytellers indicted federal authorities by focusing on the persecution descendants had since endured for preserving their
their ranch. Red Cherries recalled worrying that the Bowens were asking her, in her official capacity as a representative to the search team, to sign “for the tribe.” She insisted that she did not have the authority to do that and would rather walk away from the search entirely than risk committing her tribe to a document that she did not entirely understand handed to her by people that she did not trust.77 In that moment, painful lessons drawn from the contested history of the Treaty of Fort