US Interior Secretary Haaland announces expansion of Colorado’s Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site

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The site preserves the shortgrass prairie of Colorado’s Eastern Plains, where more than 750 Native Americans lived in an encampment in the mid-1800s. attacked the community with the aim of eliminating the tribes of the region.

This attack degenerated into a massacre of at least 230 people, including dozens of women and children.

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Mike Bearcomesout, Keeper of the Sacred Hat of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, delivers the closing remarks.

Tribes have considered the site the sacred ground of bloodshed for generations. But it was only officially kept as a memorial by the federal government in 2007.

Since then, Indigenous advocates and government officials have worked to expand the site’s footprint through purchases from surrounding private landowners.

The most recent acquisition from two private owners cost the Interior Department about $3.3 million, from federal conservation funds, officials said. Tribal leaders will consult with NPS officials in the coming months to determine future development plans.

For now, the new ground inside the historic site will be open to the public to learn more about the massacre.

Officials who spoke at Wednesday’s dedication ceremony urged American citizens to visit the site near the town of Eads and remember the event as an atrocity that should never be seen again. to reproduce.

“We cannot rely on the history books that were written by those who colonized these lands to remind us of these stories,” Sec said. Haaland in a speech to the crowd. “We must invest in opportunities like this that provide the opportunity for true and honest dialogue directly from survivors and their descendants.”

Eli Imadali for Colorado Public Radio
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks at a ceremony commemorating the Sand Creek Massacre and announcing an expansion of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site that more than doubles the size of the park.

Haaland became the nation’s first Native American to serve in the presidential cabinet when President Joe Biden appointed her to the position in 2021. Since then, she has made “healing deep wounds” with Indigenous communities a central part of her program.

Preserving historic sites of Native American history has been a key part of that, she told the crowd. Haaland — along with Colorado state officials — has also worked to rename geographic sites across the western United States that have racist or offensive names.

“Today is a sign that we are making progress. But it is not, however, the end of a journey,” Haaland said. “We still have work to do to heal the wounds in tribal communities. ”

Eli Imadali for Colorado Public Radio
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Governor Reggie Wassana presents Interior Secretary Deb Haaland with a blanket during a ceremony.

Colorado Democratic Senators Michael Bennett and John Hickenlooper attended Wednesday’s dedication ceremony, along with other local and state officials. Tribal community members traveled from as far away as Oklahoma and Montana to participate.

Many described the mood as dark, but hopeful.

William Walks Along, a tribal administrator from the Northern Cheyenne tribe and a direct descendant of Sand Creek victims, became emotional while discussing the addition of new lands, which he said contained places sacred to his culture. He told stories that his elders had passed on to him about the massacre.

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William Walks Along, the tribal administrator of the Northern Cheyenne, speaks during a ceremony.

The story of a group of Cheyenne women who took refuge in a tepee during the attack stuck in her mind. The group sent a 4-year-old girl outside the facility to plead for the life of the group.

US soldiers did not comply with this request, Walks Along said.

“Humans can be cruel and do horrible things to other humans,” he told the crowd. “But today, I see the United States and others making honorable efforts to restore the dignity of our people. And I thank them.”

Eli Imadali for Colorado Public Radio
In a beaded hat, Alexandria Cartwright, who is from southern Arapaho and drove several hours from Oklahoma with her family to attend, listens during a ceremony.

Community members expressed varying views on how the expanded footprint of the historic site should be utilized.

Ideas ranged from ecological preservation to public education to agriculture, such as raising cattle.

“We want to remember what happened to our people, but we also want our people today to work and look to the future,” Chief Spottedwolf said. “That’s what we need to start doing instead of being upset all the time.”

Eli Imadali for Colorado Public Radio
About 100 people listen during a ceremony commemorating the Sand Creek Massacre and announcing an expansion of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site that more than doubles the size of the park, Wednesday, October 5, 2022.

At the end of Wednesday’s ceremony, members of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes shared prayers and sang memorial songs.

The tribes also offered special coverages to government officials involved in the preservation agreement. The leaders rolled up the blankets over their shoulders as a sign of friendship.

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