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date: 30 March 2023

The Sand Creek Massacrelocked

The Sand Creek Massacrelocked

  • Elliott WestElliott WestUniversity of Arkansas


At dawn on November 29, 1864, a combined force of volunteer cavalry and regular army troops attacked a village of Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples on Sand Creek, or Big Sandy, a tributary of the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado. Those in the village had surrendered at nearby Fort Lyon weeks earlier and were waiting for instructions about future negotiations with the federal government. In the eight-hour massacre that followed at least one hundred fifty Indians were killed, the great majority of them women and children. Although the massacre occurred through the failures of Colorado’s territorial governor, John Evans, and the ambitions of its military commander, Colonel John Chivington, it reflected more broadly the stresses generated by the discovery of gold in Colorado in 1858, the declining position of plains Indian peoples, and the disruptions of the Civil War. Those stresses had led to raiding by elements among the Indians most resistant to intrusions by White newcomers and to assaults by military, including ones against Native leaders seeking peaceful accommodation. The massacre was followed by extensive reprisals by Southern Cheyennes and allies among the western Sioux (Lakotas). Subsequent investigations by both the military and Congress documented the atrocities committed there, and one recommended prosecution of some of its principals. No legal action was taken, and within a few years Cheyennes and Arapahoes had been removed from Colorado.


  • Native American History

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