Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

On the morning of November 29, 1864, 650 Colorado volunteers under the command of Colonel John Chivington attacked a peaceful encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. At the time of the attack, the camp was filled with women, children and elderly men as all the able-bodied men had been sent out to hunt for food. Everyone in the camp had surrendered to the Army and turned in their weapons. Before they were sent to the camp area they were given an American flag to fly above the camp to signify their peaceful intentions, and when Chivington's men attacked that morning, that American flag was waving in the breeze high above the tents.

More than 150 of those unarmed Native Americans died that morning, about 2/3 of them women and children. When the shooting was over, the troops proceeded to kill the wounded, mutilate many of the bodies and then loot the tipis and steal whatever horses remained. So many Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs were killed that the traditional power structures of both tribes were severely affected for years. It didn't help that most of those chiefs killed were also the ones most in favor of maintaining peaceful relations with the United States Government, US Army and the floods of incoming pioneers and settlers.

In the aftermath of the attack, Colonel Chivington, formerly a Civil War hero, was stripped of his rank and severely castigated by the government and the national press. Many of the Native American survivors of the massacre were granted 160-acre parcels of land in the area by the government as recompense for what they went through and what they lost. The massacre caused many changes in the way the military and Federal government dealt with Native Americans afterward. However, the massacre also led to many of the surviving Cheyenne and Arapaho moving north and joining with the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne to engage in another ten years of war against the Euro-American invaders.

In 1998 the National Park Service was directed to locate the site and evaluate it for inclusion in the National Park System. Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site was established in 2007. Since then, representatives of the Cheyenne and Arapaho have traveled from Montana, Wyoming and Oklahoma to visit and participate in an annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run at the end of November. The photos on this page are from the Spiritual Healing Run of 2009.

The authorized boundary for the National Historic Site would encompass some 12,500 acres. As of 2006, the actual acreage owned was 2,385 after the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma completed the transfer of 1,465 acres to the National Park Service to be held in trust for the Site.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is open from 9 am to 4 pm daily between April 1 and November 30. The site is closed from December 1 through March 31. Access requires driving over eight miles of sand/dirt road - can be nasty depending on the weather. There are no fees involved. Camping at the site is not allowed.

During the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run of 2009
During the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run of 2009

Photos courtesy of RW Losey via the National Park Service