The Sand Creek Massacre was one of the ill-famed incidents in American History. In 1864, the Colorado Territory soldiers planned to assail the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian villages. John Chivington was the leader of the soldiers. John Chivington was both a sermonizer and a freemason. He commanded the soldiers to butcher the Indians after the soldiers spent their night drinking excessively. Over sixty percent of the killed Indians were women and children. This heinous act has since been known as the Sand Creek Massacre. Different reports were given to the press regarding the massacre. It was reported that the Cheyenne people gave a good defense. This report was contrary to the witness report and led to further investigation concerning the incident.
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At the start of the Civil War, John Chivington rejected the position of chaplaincy because he preferred fighting. Therefore, he became a military officer for Colorado volunteers. Chivington inspired his troop during the war. He received admiration for his success in the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Although the Confederates conquered, John hindered their operation into New Mexico when he took hold of their supply wagons and destroyed them. John’s deeds raised controversy in American History.
For many years, disagreement between the Indians and the United States existed because of land issues. The treaty of Fort Laramie allowed the Indians to occupy large territories. However, the Pikes Peak gold rush pleaded with the government to change the terms of the treaty. The Cheyenne and Arapaho people came to Colorado in the 1800s. They began their journey from Minnesota. Towns emerged quickly because of the gold discovery. As a result, the Territory of Colorado was established in 1861. With the development of the new territory, the conflict began between the initial inhabitants and the Indians. Besides, there was stiff competition for resources. This caused cultural differences between the Indians and the Whites.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho were nomadic people hence required extensive land. The region they inhabited was only a small percentage of what they had been promised. The Indians began to capture trains and mining camps. This act by the Indians was enhanced during the Civil War. During the Civil War, a high percentage of soldiers died. A plan was made to kill the Indians when the battle between the Indians and the miners prevailed.
Tension arose, and US soldiers murdered the Cheyenne chief. The camps of the Cheyenne people were destroyed and the hand of the Arapaho chief was shot. The Hungate family was murdered near Denver. When their butchered bodies were exposed to the people, the inhabitants were afraid. Authorized statements to murder and demolish were given in conjunction with the promise of reprieve for the Indians who obeyed. In August, a volunteer troop was formed with an order from the War Department. The volunteer troop would serve against the Indians. Thousands of people offered themselves to join the volunteer troop.
In 1861, the Treaty of Fort Wise withdrew land from the Indians. The Cheyenne and Lakota chiefs accepted the terms of the treaty. The Indians were left with only a small percentage of the original territory. The Indian chiefs signed the treaty to guarantee the safety of their communities. However, not all Indians were happy with the decision to sign the Fort Laramie Treaty. The Cheyenne and Lakota group strictly rejected the idea of the United States taking their land. To end the attack against the Indians, Black Kettle and White Antelope, planned to form peace talks with the United States. They were commanded to go to Fort Lyon and hold the American flag as a sign of surrender. Despite flying the American flag, many Indians were massacred when male Indians were out in the fields hunting.
Although the Arapaho and Kiowa Indians say their predecessors were at the Sand Creek. It is documented that the Arapaho and Kiowa Indians always took a distance of eight miles from the Cheyenne. Cheyenne Indians stated there was no other group of Indians in the massacre apart from them.
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The Cheyenne Indians, from their spiritual encounter at the location, claim that the Sand Creek Massacre occurred at Dawson’s Bend in Sand Creek. Dawson was the name of a rancher on that location for almost forty years. The soldiers fired maimed, sexually assaulted, beheaded, and butchered almost five hundred Cheyenne people. Those who came through the massacre gave tales to their people.
Cause of the Sand Creek Massacre
One of the causes of the sand creek massacre was a communication issue. John Evans, governor of Colorado stated all Indians in 1864. The statement instructed Indians to surrender their weapons in the nearest fort. In return, the Indians would receive provisions and learn how to farm. He stated that those who objected to the order would be viewed as criminals. He said they would be tracked down, persecuted, and imprisoned.
The Cheyenne community did not receive the statement immediately but after three months. By the time the Indians went to fort Lyon, the plan to attack them was underway. John Evans got the news that the Indians were meeting at Smoky Hill. He was informed that the Indians were planning to assault Denver City. Evans asked for help from the secretary of war because of the terror of the assault. However, his request was rejected because the American Civil War was in progress and most soldiers participated. The Indians managed to meet Governor Evans at Camp Weld. They were given the command to hand in their weapons at Fort Lyon. After giving up their weapons they went to Sand Creek. At Sand Creek, they were to receive provisions and learn how to do farming.
Chivington, who detested Indians, vied for Congress together with Evans. Chivington lost the seat and Evans pulled out his name from the election. Concurrently, Colorado people voted against the idea of Colorado becoming a state. Seven hundred militia commanded by Chivington assaulted many Cheyennes Indians at the Sand Creek. Chivington disregarded the peace treaty and was armed for war. The Indians were not prepared for any attack and therefore John and his soldiers conquered without much struggle. Very few Indians managed to resist the war while others fled through the stream.
The Cheyenne ran northward and excavated hiding places in the ground. However, they were barraged with howitzer shells. The soldiers stopped the attack when they realized they had a shortage of weapons. Chivington left his goal of advancing northward to attack the Indians. He guided his soldiers to the Arkansas valley to chase the Arapaho group and later moved to Denver.
Crooked Indian agents played a role in the Sand Creek Massacre. These agents sold the provisions they received from the government instead of obeying the agreement at Fort Wise. The voracity and selfishness of the agents made the Cheyenne people weak and needy.
Questions were raised concerning the assault and allegations of the massacre. These concerns led to an inquiry and probe of the matter. Captain Silas opposed Chivington’s commands. He commanded his cavalry not to shoot women and children. He was ready to give testament against Chivington. After giving his testimony, Captain Silas was killed in Denver after an order was given by Chivington. Solders who supported the assault called themselves the Vindicators. The disputes that arose after the Sand Creek Massacre went on for twelve years. The massacre resulted in the creation of other treaties, new Indian policies, and created associations for Native American incorporation and education.
John Chivington was condemned in a congressional inquiry and asked to quit his job. Chivington claimed to kill children because they made lice. Chivington and his soldiers did not face any charges for the assault. The condemning of Chivington did little to change how the Indians felt towards the United States. The Indians of the South and North were determined to oppose the White invasion. A revenging spirit prevailed in the land for many years.
The Indians who fled the attack went to Smokey Hill River where the Cheyenne (Dog Soldiers) who had opposed the peace treaty stayed. The Dog Soldiers expanded as more Indians joined them. They resolved not to have peace agreements with the Whites and instead waged war against the Whites.
The Sand Creek Massacre is viewed as the origin of the Little Big Horn battle. The reason behind this view is that most Indians gave up their lives to fight against the White people.