Sand Creek Massacre: Without Any Declaration Of War

Sandcreek

By Black Powder | Red Power Media, Staff

The beginning of the American Civil War in 1861 led to the organization of military forces in Colorado Territory. In March 1862, the Coloradans defeated the Texas Confederate Army in the Battle of Glorieta Pass in New Mexico. Following the battle, the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers returned to Colorado Territory under the command of Colonel John Chivington.

Chivington and Colorado territorial governor John Evans adopted a hard line against “Indians”, whom white settlers accused of stealing livestock.

Without any declaration of war, in April 1864 soldiers started attacking and destroying a number of Cheyenne camps, the largest of which included about 70 lodges, about 10% of the housing capacity of the entire Cheyenne nation.

Tensions peaked that summer, following the murder of a white family near Denver Colorado, a crime attributed at the time to raiding Cheyenne or Arapaho. Governor Evans, called on citizens to “kill and destroy” hostile natives and raised a new regiment, led by Chivington. Evans also ordered “friendly Indians” to seek out “places of safety,” such as U.S. forts.

The Cheyenne chief Black Kettle heeded this call. Known as a peacemaker, he and allied chiefs initiated talks with white authorities, the last of whom was a fort commander who told the Indians to remain in their camp at Sand Creek until the commander received further orders.

But Evans was intent on the “chastisement” of all the region’s Indians and he had a willing participant in Chivington, who hoped further military glory would vault him into Congress. For months, his new regiment had seen no action and become mockingly known as the “Bloodless Third.” Then, shortly before the unit’s 100-day enlistment ran out, Chivington led about 700 men on a night ride to Sand Creek.

At sunrise on Nov. 29th, while almost all of their warriors were elsewhere hunting bison, the 3rd Colorado regiment attacked an encampment of Arapaho and Cheyenne people at a bend of the river Sand Creek.

As a Cheyenne chief raised the Stars and Stripes above his lodge, others in the village waved white flags. The troops replied by opening fire, killing some 200 Native Americans, most of them women, children and the elderly. Before departing, the troops burned the village and mutilated the dead, carrying off body parts as trophies, according to historical accounts.

Colonel John Chivington

Colonel John Chivington

“At daylight this morning attacked Cheyenne village of 130 lodges, from 900 to 1,000 warriors strong,” Chivington wrote his superior late on November 29th.

His men, he said, waged a furious battle against well-armed and entrenched foes, ending in a great victory: the deaths of several chiefs, “between 400 and 500 other Indians” and “almost an annihilation of the entire tribe.” 

This news was greeted with acclaim, as were Chivington’s troops, who returned to Denver displaying scalps they’d cut from Indians (some of which became props in celebratory local plays). But this gruesome revelry was interrupted by the emergence of a very different storyline.

Its primary author was Capt. Silas Soule, a militant and abolitionist, like Chivington. Soule, however, was appalled by the attack on Sand Creek, which he saw as a betrayal of peaceful Indians. He refused to fire a shot or order his men into action, instead bearing witness to the massacre and recording it in chilling detail.

“Hundreds of women and children were coming towards us, and getting on their knees for mercy,” he wrote, only to be shot and “have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized.” Indians didn’t fight from trenches, as Chivington claimed; they fled up the creek and desperately dug into its sand banks for protection. From there, some young men “defended themselves as well as they could,” with a few rifles and bows, until overwhelmed by carbines and howitzers. Others were chased down and killed as they fled across the Plains.

Soule estimated the Indian dead at 200, all but 60 of them women and children. “There was no organization among our troops, they were a perfect mob every man on his own hook.” Given this chaos, some of the dozen or so soldiers killed at Sand Creek were likely hit by friendly fire.

Soule sent his dispatch to a sympathetic major. A lieutenant at the scene sent a similar report. When these accounts reached Washington in early 1865, Congress and the military launched investigations. Chivington testified that it was impossible to tell peaceful from hostile natives, and insisted he’d battled warriors rather than slaughtering civilians. But a Congressional committee ruled that the colonel had “deliberately planned and executed a foul and dastardly massacre” and “surprised and murdered, in cold blood” Indians who “had every reason to believe that they were under U.S. protection.”

That authorities in Washington paid attention to distant Sand Creek was striking, particularly at a time when civil war still raged back East. Federal condemnation of a military atrocity against Indians was likewise extraordinary. In a treaty later that year, the U.S. government also promised reparations for “the gross and wanton outrages” perpetrated at Sand Creek.

Chivington escaped court-martial because he had already resigned from the military. But his once-promising career was over. He became a nomad and failed entrepreneur rather than a Congressman. Soule, his principal accuser, also paid for his role in the affair. Soon after testifying, he was shot dead on a Denver street by assailants believed to have been associates of Chivington.

Another casualty of Sand Creek was any remaining hope of peace on the Plains. Black Kettle, the Cheyenne chief who had raised a U.S. flag in a futile gesture of fellowship, survived the massacre, carrying his badly wounded wife from the field and straggling east across the wintry plains. The next year, in his continuing effort to make peace, he signed a treaty and resettled his band on reservation land in Oklahoma.

Black Kettle and his wife were killed Nov. 27, 1868, in yet another massacre, this one led by George Armstrong Custer, at a Cheyenne camp on the Washita River which was part of a major winter encampment of numerous tribal bands.

Many other Indians, meanwhile, had taken the Sand Creek massacre as final proof that peace with whites was impossible and promises of protection meant nothing.

Young Cheyenne warriors, called Dog Soldiers, joined other Plains tribesmen in launching raids that killed scores of settlers and paralyzed transport. As a result, the massacre at Sand Creek accomplished the opposite of what Chivington and his allies had sought. Rather than speed the removal of Indians and the opening of the Plains to whites, it united formerly divided tribes into a formidable obstacle to expansion.

Sand Creek and its aftermath also kept the nation at war long after the South’s surrender. Union soldiers, and generals such as Sherman and Sheridan, were redeployed west to subdue Plains Indians. This campaign took five times as long as the Civil War, until the infamous massacre at Wounded Knee, in 1890.

The Sand Creek Massacre will be remembered as one of the most deadly incidents in all of the American Indian Wars.

The American flag and the white flag flown by Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle at the time of Col. Chivington’s attack were intended to show the peaceful nature of the encampment. Soldiers ignored these symbols.

The American flag and the white flag flown by Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle at the time of Col. Chivington’s attack were intended to show the peaceful nature of the encampment. U.S. soldiers ignored these symbols.

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The Final Indian War In America Is About To Begin

Dale Looks Twice, left, and Acorn High Hawk lead the procession out of Manderson to the Wounded Knee massacre gravesite.

Dale Looks Twice, left, and Acorn High Hawk lead the procession out of Manderson to the Wounded Knee massacre gravesite.

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji) / HuffPost

South Dakota’s Republican leadership of John Thune and Kristi Noem always march lockstep with the other Republican robots. Neither of them care that South Dakota’s largest minority, the people of the Great Sioux Nation, diametrically oppose the Pipeline and they also fail to understand the determination of the Indian people to stop it.

The House vote was 252-161 favoring the bill. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) who is trying to take the senate seat from Democrat Mary Landrieu, They are headed for a senate runoff on December 6 and Landrieu has expressed a strong support of the bill in hopes of holding her senate seat.

Two hundred twenty-one Republicans supported the bill which made the Republican support unanimous while 31 Democrats joined the Republicans. One hundred sixty-one Democrats rejected the bill.

Progressive newsman and commentator for MSNBC, Ed Schultz, traveled to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota this year to meet with the Indian opponents of the Pipeline. Firsthand he witnessed the absolute determination of the Indian nations to stop construction of the Pipeline.

He witnessed their determination and reported on it. Except for Schultz the national media shows no interest and apparently has no knowledge of how the Indian people feel about the Pipeline nor do they comprehend that they will go to their deaths stopping it. What is wrong with the national media when it comes to Indians?

As an example of the national media’s apathy, the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota have turned their backs on the $1.5 billion dollars offered to them for settling the Black Hills Claim and although they are among the poorest of all Americans, the national media does not consider this news.

Why do they protest the XL Pipeline? Because the lands the Pipeline will cross are Sacred Treaty Lands and to violate these lands by digging ditches for the pipelines is blasphemes to the beliefs of the Native Americans. Violating the human and religious rights of a people in order to create jobs and low cost fuel is the worst form of capitalism. Will the Pipeline bring down the cost of fuel and create thousands of jobs?

President Barack Obama has blocked the construction of the Pipeline for six years and he said, “I have constantly pushed back against the idea the somehow the Keystone Pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices. Understand what this project is. It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. That doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

In the meantime Senator Landrieu conceded that it is unlikely that the Senate and the House will have the two-thirds majority needed to override an Obama veto.

Wizipan Little Elk of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a coalition of tribal leaders from across the Northern Plains and the United States have pulled no punches on how they intend to fight the Pipeline to the death if that is the only way to stop it.

South Dakota’s elected leadership has totally ignored the protests of the largest minority residing in their state. They have also totally underestimated and misunderstood the inherent determination of the Indian people. This is a huge mistake that will have national implications and it is taking place right under their Republican noses.

What is even worse South Dakota’s media has also buried its collective heads in the sand even though Native Sun News has been reporting on the Keystone XL Pipeline since 2006. Award-winning Health and Environment Editor for Native Sun News, Talli Nauman, has been at the journalistic forefront of this environmental disaster about to happen from day one and she has been rewarded by the South Dakota Newspaper Association with many awards for her yearly series of articles on this most important topic. Until this issue became a political football, the rest of South Dakota’s media had been silent.

The Keystone XL Pipeline that is being pushed by TransCanada may well be the beginning of the final war between the United States government and the Indian Nations. A word of caution to TransCanada and the U.S. Government: please do not disregard the determination of the Indian people when they say they will fight this Pipeline to their deaths if need be. They mean it!

When asked if he truly thought that a handful of Indians could stop the construction of the Pipeline, Little Elk simply said, “Try us!”

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe stands its ground against the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline ‪#‎NoKXL‬ ‪#‎StandTheLine‬

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe stands its ground against the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline ‪#‎NoKXL‬ ‪#‎StandTheLine‬

(Note: This column will appear before the Senate votes on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The House has already approved the construction of the Pipeline)

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the editor and publisher of Native Sun News.

Source: www.indianz.com/News/2014/015666.asp