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As far as atrocities against Native Americans by westerners, it’s hard to pick the worst. But there’s one that certainly ranks up there. Surely the horrific, predawn mass murder of at least 150 unarmed people, mostly women and children, who were flying the American flag fits the bill.

On this episode of America’s National Parks, we revisit the dedication of Colorado’s Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. 

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site:

One of the central conflicts of the Civil War was new states in the American West, particularly whether those states would be slave states or not. But slavery wasn’t the only obstacle to western settlement. Native Americans had lived in these territories for centuries… others had been forced to leave their eastern domains by early America.

The Sand Creek Massacre, both perpetrated by and denounced by the U.S. government, would fuel conflict between the United States and Native Americans for decades to come. 

As part of this episode, we’ll hear of the events of November 8th, 1864, about how they were forgotten by white America, how the location was lost, and found again after years of forensic investigation. Then, we’ll revisit the dedication ceremony of 2007. 

Former Park Superintendent Alexa Roberts

Eugene Little Coyote

Richard Little Bear

Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter

Former U.S. Senator, and now U.S. Ambassador Sam Brownback

Former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell

Gordon Yellowman Senior

Joyce Martinez

Carol Red Cherries

William Walks Along

Sergio Maldanado, Sr.

Reginald Killsnight

Gail Ridgely

Nelson Clark

Gilbert White Dirt

Chief Robert Tabor

Each year, to commemorate the anniversary of the massacre, Cheyenne and Arapaho runners participate in the 173-mile Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run, which represents the route used by the soldiers when returning to Denver.

Beginning at Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, participants run to the intersection of 15th and Arapaho Streets in downtown Denver, where they pause to honor the memory of Captain Silas S. Soule, who disobeyed orders, refused to participate in the massacre, and testified against his commanding officer. He was murdered the following year. 

From there, participants and spectators alike walk to the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol, where tributes and commemoration ceremonies by state dignitaries, tribal leaders and elders take place. 

The annual Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run is open to everyone.