Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Sunday the state will transfer 640 acres of state-owned land to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. The date marked the 151th anniversary of the attack.
Col. John Chivington led 700 volunteers to massacre nearly 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women and children on Nov. 29, 1864. More than two-thirds of the dead were women and children.
“Sand Creek is one of the most historically significant sites in Colorado and the United States,” Hickenlooper said in a released statement. “Our hope in offering last year’s apology was to fully acknowledge the dark chapter of our history. Today’s land transfer is an important step on the path toward a new era of healing and a critical part of preserving the Sand Creek Massacre story.”
Last year, on the 150th anniversary of the massacre Hickenlooper became the first Colorado governor to offer an apology for the Sand Creek Massacre, which took place in present-day Kiowa County – then on the eastern boundary of the Colorado Territory.
The donation of land to the historical site is due to a collaboration among the History Colorado State Historical Fund, the History Colorado Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, the Civil War Trust and the National Park Service.
The location of the massacre became a National Historic Site in 1998. There is also a movement to make a memorial at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver.
“Today’s land transfer is an important step on the path toward a new era of healing and a critical part of preserving the Sand Creek Massacre story.” – Gov. John Hickenlooper
Chivington was authorized by Gov. John Evans to guard the eastern portion of the Colorado Territory prior to the attack. Often, there were disputes between the Native Americans and settlers traveling east, but the Southern Cheyenne leader Black Kettle assured local militia that his people would live peacefully on their reservation after turning over four white men his tribe had taken captive.
Prior to the massacre, Evans declared war on hostile Native Americans for the death of a family just outside of Denver that was linked to Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Evans encouraged peaceful tribes to seek shelter at forts. Black Kettle acted on the warning and met with authorities.
But it did no good, as a village of around 700 to 1,000 Cheyenne and Arapaho were attacked at dawn on Nov. 29 1864. While celebrations ensued in Denver over the massacre, many were horrified. Congress launched an investigation, which resulted in peace treaties with several Native American tribes in the region two years later.