Sand Creek Massacre Site Trail
There have been educators, historians, politicians, retired military, authors, writers and the like who have confronted me about my perspective on the Sand Creek Massacre (battle?). Many believe that it was a battle whereby the Indian Plains War of 1864, the Hungate murders in June of 1864 about 15 miles southeast of Denver City, racism, ignorance about the Indian culture, hate, power, skirmishes between troops and Indians and settlers and Indians, etc. triggered Colonel John M. Chivington, with over 700 1st and 3rd Colorado Cavalry in addition to New Mexico troops and four 12-pound canons (first and only time canons were used in Colorado during a battle (massacre?), to attack defenseless Cheyenne and Arapaho special needs people (Cheyenne Chiefs are responsible for everyone in their tribe. Where they travel, so does everyone else. Chief Black Kettle was the Cheyenne Chief of the Council of 44 Chiefs at Sand Creek), elders, women and children at Sand Creek while the warriors were out on a hunting trip.
The Fort Wise 1861 Treaty and amended in 1864 sent the Cheyenne and Arapaho to Fort Lyon and then to Sand Creek where it is arid and the land is barren and consists primarily of sagebrush and mostly treeless. The Fort Wise Treaty stipulated that the U. S. government would provide tools and seeds and teach the Cheyenne and Arapaho to raise crops on this land in place of following the buffalo, which is how they had always survived. U. S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs A. B. Greenwood, the government’s negotiator, told Chief Black Kettle at the time of the negotiations that he would represent the Cheyenne and Arapaho after Chief Black Kettle raised the question about legal representation for the Indians, which was, at the least, a conflict of interest, and illegal.
This attack at Sand Creek resulted in rape, executions, murder, mutilations and burning of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people who were camped at Sand Creek. My perspective counters those who say that with the fear of the Cheyenne and Sioux congregating on Smoky Hill to plan an attack on Denver City resulted in the Sand Creek Massacre (battle?). Based on years of research, which has included reading numerous books, articles, websites, academic journals, interviewing educators, historians, politicians, military persons, letters by people during those times including Silas Soule, a hero of the Sand Creek Massacre because he refused to unlimber his canon on the Cheyenne and Arapaho people who were fleeing the attack authors, writers, Cheyenne and Arapaho people and the like, it is my opinion that the Sand Creek Massacre (battle?) was a massacre. Much like ISIL and Nazis, some Colorado and New Mexico troops brutalized the Cheyenne and Arapaho people in the Sand Creek camp including beheading, burning and execution.
Those who have opposed my opinion about this have used a counter argument that the Cheyenne and Arapaho people along with the Sioux were intent on wiping out all of the Caucasian people in the Colorado Territory, and thus, the reason for the massacre (battle?). The question everyone should ask themselves regarding the Sand Creek Massacre (battle?), ISIL and the Nazis is, what came first, the egg or the chicken? (so to speak). Who was on American soil before it became American soil? Who set out to create a master race by murdering everyone who did/do not fit the profile of the Nazis or ISIL’s?
Indians were on soil that became American soil before Caucasian people were on this soil. A host of religions and cultures battled and massacred by extremists to kill all unbelievers with respect to what the Prophet Mohammad intended when he wrote the “Qur’an”, but has been “misinterpreted” just like the “Bible” has been misinterpreted, has resulted in the most heinous of crimes on human beings.
The fine point of this discussion is to point out that after watching my award-winning Sand Creek Massacre documentary film, which was cataloged into the Smithsonian Institute Libraries, in addition to museums, colleges, schools, universities, libraries, and numerous venues, two fourth grade classes at Federal Heights Elementary School in Colorado, based on an assignment, sent me letters, 19 in all, each sharing with me their opinions regarding the Sand Creek Massacre (battle?) after I answered their questions in the school library after the screening of the film.
Maria: “In my opinion, the Indians were treated badly from the soldiers.”
Valeria: “…The soldiers trapped the Cheyenne, they did not know where to go.”
Aisha: “…The Native Americans were treated unfairly they had a surprise attack on them.”
Kevin: “…Indians thought the whites wanted peace, so they surrendered their weapons to get food.”
Nevaeh: “…The Native Americans put up a white flag and the calvary still attacked the Indians by
by surprise…the Native Americans were unprepared and couldn’t fight back.”
Michelle: “I am really disappointed at what the calvary did to the Indians.”
Jaquelin: “I heard there were two boys that informed all the Indians Colonel Chivington soldiers that attacked the Indians did not get punished. In addition I learned that the Indians
who went to camp at Sand Creek raised two flags and thought they would be safer
there, but they were wrong. The soldiers ignored it and attacked the Indians anyways.
I agree that the soldiers did the wrong thing.”
Perla: “…I don’t think the army should have taken the Indians property because they
wouldn’t like the Native Americans taking their property.”
Amiah: “I’ve got another question: Why did the soldiers take the parts of dead Indians they
Dominick: “..I think that the Native people were mistreated. My first reason is that they surrendered their weapons. Next, the only people at Sand Creek were women, kids and elders.
Finally, they were surprised by the attack.”
Bethany: “…I want to say they should not have been attacked because Col. John Chivington thought all Indians were bad.”
Alejandra: “…innocent people died because the soldiers wanted revenge. I think this is very sad that this happened in Colorado.”
Joservis: “…the soldiers snuck up on the Native Americans at Sand Creek. This was a bad thing to do. the Native Americans tried to make peace with the soldiers.”
Lamila: “…the cavalry thought all Indians were bad.”
Lurita: “…the Indians didn’t have their weapons, so they could not fight back.”
Edwin: “In my opinion, the Indians were right because not all the Indians attacked settlers.”
Jonathan: “…all the Indians traded their weapons for food, but instead they were attacked.”
Isaac: “…They got slaughtered because they had no weapons…they scalped the Indians and bragged about it at the fort.”
William: “…the Indians should not have been killed during the massacre or should not have been killed at all!”
The essence of this discussion centers around how all of us, individually and/or collectively, can help influence young minds to steer them away from ignorance, fear, hate and racism. We can do it by setting examples for them. We can do it by helping youth understand why people do what they do and what consequences they face when they make bad choices. When cultures and/or religions clash, it is up to us to transcend a violent reaction. In place of that, we have to strive to learn and grow as individuals in our war against tragedies like the Sand Creek Massacre, World War II and the war against ISIL, Al-Qa’ida, and over 20 other extremist groups in the world.
Step Number 1 in elevating our minds and hearts to move away from violent reactions to racism is to show respect to all. The Cheyenne people have repeatedly told me all they ever have desired is to be shown respect. And it boils down to this as far as I’m concerned, how have you felt when you haven’t been shown respect? How do you react? How have you reacted? Have you fueled the fire of ignorance by striking back? How do you deal with it? Racism can be neutralized by showing respect to all others. Sure, it is impossible to show respect to insanity like what ISIL and other extremist groups are exhibiting. However, one can show respect to Islam and Muslims by not connecting them to these groups that are wrecking havoc on the world.
Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
The Zen of Writing & Screenwriting