DENVER (KDVR) – November is Native American Heritage Month and during the month-long celebration, History Colorado launched a new exhibit on Saturday in an effort to bring attention to the state’s darkest and deadliest chapter.
Nearly 158 years ago on November 29, 1864, troops with the United States Army led an assault on a peaceful village of Native Americans, killing over 230 women, children and elders on what is still the deadliest day in Colorado’s history.
This tragic assault is known as The Sand Creek Massacre, and on Saturday, a commemorative ceremony was held to open the newest exhibit that highlights it over at the History Colorado Center in Denver: “The Sand Creek Massacre: The Betrayal that Changed Cheyenne and Arapaho People Forever.”
History Colorado’s The Sand Creek Massacre grand opening
To organize this exhibit, History Colorado consulted with members of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes, who were able to impart their tribes’ oral histories and tribal accounts from that terrible day so long ago.
“It was genocide. We need to educate the people and heal our people so that something like this won’t happen again,” Chester Whiteman of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe said. “I hope this exhibit will get people to understand that we’re all human.”
Following that deadly attack from the U.S. government, the Cheyenne and Arapaho people were pushed out of the state and into Montana, Oklahoma and Wyoming, where they today exist as three sovereign tribal nations.
“This exhibition will include information about the lives of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people before the massacre, life today and our efforts to remember the massacre,” tribal historian and Sand Creek descendant Fred Mosqueda of the Southern Arapaho tribe explained.
Each aspect of this exhibit has been heavily vetted by representatives of the tribes, according to History Colorado.
“The Sand Creek Massacre is sacred,” Gail Ridgely of the Northern Arapaho tribe said. “Historic remembrance, educational awareness, and spiritual healing are very important for the Cheyenne and Arapaho people.”
History Colorado’s exhibition includes:
- A listening station for oral histories from descendants of the Massacre
- A listening station for letters written by soldiers refusing to take part in the assault on the peaceful village
- Historically significant documents from congressional and military investigations following the Massacre
- “The story of the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run that goes from the Massacre site to Denver each year”
- Stories from members of the sovereign tribes relocated to Montana, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
“The Sand Creek Massacre exhibition will demonstrate that people can work humbly together to remember and begin to heal from atrocities and betrayals such as this,” Sand Creek Massacre project director at History Colorado, Shannon Voirol, said. “It will also offer universal, timely lessons that fear, racism and stereotyping can, and do, lead to catastrophic consequences.”
Be sure to check out their website to learn more and plan your visit.