Senator Releases Massacre Letters
Thursday September 14, 2000
Matt Kelley - Associated Press Writer
Washington (AP) - Nearly
136 years after Colorado Militia troops ambushed and massacred more than 150
American Indians on the banks of Sand Creek, a senator related to a survivor of
the attack is sponsoring a plan to create a memorial at the site.
hearing on the proposal Thursday, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell read from two
recently discovered letters written by soldiers who objected to the 1864
atrocity. One, Capt. Silas Soule, detailed the gruesome scene where troops
slaughtered Cheyenne and Arapaho women, children and elderly men.
hard to see little children on their knees have their brains beat out by men
professing to be civilized" wrote Soule, who was murdered in Denver shortly
after testifying at a congressional inquiry.
Campbell, a Northern
Cheyenne whose great grandfather's second wife survived the attack, said the
descriptions brought tears to his eyes. The Colorado Republican is backing a
bill to create a national historic site on more than 12,000 acres of "killing
fields" on the plains of southeastern Colorado.
"Can you imagine cutting
open a pregnant woman and taking out the baby and then scalping the baby? My
God!" Campbell said. "It's the worst atrocity I've heard of."
National Park Service supports Campbell's proposal to create the Sand Creek
historic site, which would help protect the area from artifact poachers and
allow Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members to create a burial ground there for
the remains of the victims.
Rancher, Bill Dawson, on whose land much of
the killing ground lies, and other area land owners are willing to sell their
property to create the memorial.
Campbell said he guessed the bill had a
"50-50" chance of passing Congress before lawmakers adjourn for the year, which
is scheduled for early October.
Steve Brady, president of the Northern
Cheyenne Sand Creek Descendants, said the historic site would commemorate "the
unspeakable horror of ethnic cleansing"
The massacre began at dawn on
Nov. 29, 1864, when nearly 1,000 men under the command of Col. John M.
Chivington, surrounded hundreds of Indians camped on the banks of Sand Creek.
Soule and other witnesses said Chivington wanted to kill Indians and did not
care that this group was peaceful and had been promised by other U. S. troops
that they would be left alone if they flew an American flag.
opened fire on the mostly unarmed Indians with guns and howitzers, then chased
down many who tried to flee. The soldiers mutilated the bodies, taking away
scalps, ears, fingers and genitals as trophies.
congressional probe sparked by Soule and Lt. Joe Cramer condemned the massacre,
those involved were never punished and the reparations promised in a treaty were
never paid. Chivington has a town in the area named for him.
other Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders said they are still trying to get remains of
Sand Creek victims returned to tribes. The Colorado Historical Society has at
least one scalp from a Sand Creek victim, and the University of Nebraska at
Lincoln has the cranium of another, they said.
Having a final resting
place for those remains is important to the descendants of the massacre victims,
said Joe Big Medicine, who works to reclaim remains for the Southern Cheyenne
"It's important for us to have it remembered by the American
people," Big Medicine said, "It's important to remember what they did to our
people. They killed our people."
On the Net: Some of the testimony at the
congressional inquiry is reprinted at:
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