On the cold morning of Nov. 29, 1864, hundreds of people awoke for what would be their last footsteps and breaths. The sound of hoofs on the plains marked the end for many members of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes that day.
The day, known eternally in Colorado history as the Sand Creek Massacre, is now recognized as a historical day and is seen as a chance for remembrance during Native American History Month.
Ben Ridgley, a tribal representative of the Northern Arapaho Sand Creek Project Committee and the Native American Cultural Center, invited members of the Fort Collins and CSU community to share in the history and turmoil that surrounded the massacre as well as the subsequent events, including the decades it took to establish the historical site that now rests in Kiowa County.
â€œThey gave up their lives for our survival,â€ said Harvey Spoonhunter, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Council. â€œWe owe them our respect.â€
Speakers included Tom Meier, a historian who has documented the historical event and has aided in the recognition of historical findings for Sand Creek. The National Park Service honored Meier for his work with Sand Creek by giving him the Park Service Spur, a symbol of its appreciation for his devotion to the cause.
â€œYou do it because itâ€™s the right thing to do,â€ said Meier, who fought back tears as he accepted the token of appreciation.
Alden Miller, superintendent of the National Park Service, presented Meier with the award. Both gentlemen stressed the importance of the massacre and its historical context within Colorado.
â€œWe live in a world where Sand Creek is still relevant,â€ Miller said. â€œThe struggle for cultural survival is still relevant.â€
Miller has been an integral cate part of the preservation of the site, which took years to find and establish because of geographical and historical discrepancies, since its historical marking in 2007.
â€œOur mission is to preserve the site,â€ said Miller, â€œas well as prevent future occurrences as part of a mandate from Congress.â€
As part of their healing for the massacre, a relay will take place on the morning of Thanksgiving. The run will total 200 miles and trace the route of ancestors of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribesmen and women along the now titled Sand Creek Massacre Trail.
For information on the relay and the history of Sand Creek, community members can contact the Native American Cultural Center at www.nacc.colostate.edu.
Staff writer Sean Bucher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.