Starting my final day of driving towards New Mexico, I found myself crossing southeast Colorado. Not much out this way but I did spot the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site on my map and decided that I’d give it a go. This is a very remote site and out of my way but not sure I’ll ever be back in this area so why not?
As is prone to happen when you are “winging it” on the road, I arrived on a day where the site is closed. I was greeted only with a large gate and some signs to read.
For anyone else considering a visit, be smarter than I was and don’t go on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
Not all was lost as there are some educational signs outside the gated area. I’ll post them here but not sure how much you can see as the text is a bit tiny to view on the web. First sign gives a high-level overview of how Chief White Antelope and about 230 Cheyenne in a peaceful village were attacked unprovoked & massacred by Colorado (US) Volunteer Cavalry in 1864. Chief White Antelope was a Peace Chief and signed the Treaty of Fort Wise that created reservation lands that he was on but they were still senselessly murdered during this confusing period while the Civil War was being fought back east. [Author’s note: Surprisingly there was no Wikipedia page for White Antelope so I created it as a draft, hopefully goes live in the future.]
Second sign gives a slightly longer and abbreviated timeline. Key takeaways: Early 1800s the Cheyenne and Arapaho migrated from Minnesota to the Great Plains. The Santa Fe Trail opens and Bent’s Old Fort leads part of the tribe settles nearby for trade and are known as the Southern Cheyenene. California gold rush happens & white settlers move west causing increased contact & conflicts. Indians sign treaties with the US Government but are lied to & promises by the US are not fulfilled. Gold is discovered in Colorado, white settlers move illegally onto reservation lands, US government doesn’t seem to care, more lands stolen from native people.
Third sign continues the timeline. Civil War causes US troops east and local presence is replaced by volunteer regiments organized to thwart possible Confederate invasion. US Government promises & resources are never paid to the Cheyenne. President Abraham Lincoln signs the Pacific Railway Act which invades & steals land from Plains tribes. US Army keeps attacking unprovoked during Indian Wars of 1864. Local Governor Evans and Col. Chivington ask Plains tribes to move as a peaceful act and they do. Chivington then massacres peaceful village unprovoked at Sand Creek. 1867 Medicine Lodge Treaty signed which should have brought peace, instead Col. George Custer killed Chief Black Kettle’s tribe and kills 50 more. Presidential Executive Orders over next 20 years would create reservation lands and relocate the tribes and steal more land.
Fourth sign covers controversy of naming a town Chivington. Railroad expansion created new towns to be built and one was named Chivington after the Colonel who murdered Chief White Antelope’s peaceful Cheyenne village. Alkali was found in the water, railroad moved it’s headquarters, and the town dissolved. Periodically petitions are raised to rename the town and strip Chivington of this honor, some people believe it should remain as an opportunity to reflect on the past. The discussion continues.
Moral of the story: Native Americans have every right to distrust the white man and the US Government. For that matter, nobody should trust the US Government. History has shown they will stop at nothing to kill you & steal your property.
Lat = 38.5414658 , Long = -102.5050735 -- Show at Google Maps
Author’s Note: Due to my lazy nature and/or busy schedule, I’m posting this from the future in July 2021. Original visit date September 2, 2020 which is during the time that the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. I was travelling solo and always masked up when not outdoors and socially distanced. Sadly my trip got derailed due to close contact with infected parties and I had to bail out early (luckily I tested negative upon return). Needless to say this wasn’t my favorite trip and I’ve been putting off posting it. Anyways, enjoy it now, travel safely, and get vaccinated.