Modern day Sand Creek Massacre location, near Eads, Colorado
On June 24, 1864 Colorado governor, John Evans, ordered the Native Americans living in the eastern Colorado territory to Sand Creek. Evans wanted to get rid of the Indians as part of his plan to increase his popularity with the white Colorado citizens in hopes of winning a U.S. Senate seat. In addition to the order, he started a temporary 100-day militia force to wage war on the Native Americans. The commander of that regiment was Colonel John Chivington. John also wanted to further his political career.
Black Kettle (Moke-ta-ve-to) (Peace Chief, Southern Cheyenne) Drawing courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society
After a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Chief Black Kettle had seen the abundance of people and the powerful machines they had. Black Kettle knew the Native Americans had a small chance of defeating the white people and so had argued that the Native Americans must make peace with the whites if their tribes were to survive. Many Indians were still distrustful of the whites motives and refused to give in. Black Kettle and a few other chiefs took Evan’s offer and went to Sand Creek in November of 1864, not knowing the decision would eventually bring disaster.
The Sand Creek Massacre” by Robert Lindneaux portrays his concept of the assault on the peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho village by the U.S. Army. Courtesy of History Colorado H.6130.37
November 29, 1864, Chivington and 700 men charged Black Kettle’s peaceful village at daybreak. Most of the men in the village were away hunting. In the next few hours, Chivington’s men had slaughtered 105 women and children, and 28 men. Black Kettle and a few others were able to escape the massacre.
The nation soon learned about the slaughter at Sand Creek and were horrified. Unfortunately, Chivington and his men were not charged of the crime since they had disbanded before anything could come of it. Though, Chivington’s reputation and dream of political gain were ruined. Governor Evan’s was forced to resign with no hope of a Senate seat.
The massacre only helped fuel the Native American’s anger toward the white settlers and battles insued between the two peoples for years to come.