This article is part of a series by the National Park Service concerning the 150th Anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.
The Sand Creek Massacre, tragic and unnecessary, impacted Federal-Indian relations and created the circumstances for years of warfare. With the events of November 29, 1864 fixed in their minds, Plains Indian nations faced an uncertain future between warring against and accommodating the federal government.
Cheyenne and Arapaho peace chiefs, influenced by assurances of peace at the Camp Weld Conference, reported to Fort Lyon throughout October of 1864. The fort’s commander told Chief Black Kettle and other leaders to await a peace delegation at their camp on Sand Creek and to fly the U.S. flag to indicate their peaceful intent. Throughout November, these elders waited.
On November 29, U.S. Army (Volunteer) soldiers attacked the village. Disregarding the greetings and calls to stop, these “beings in the form of men” fired indiscriminately at the Cheyenne and Arapaho. Of approximately 700 people in the village, about 200 died that day—two-thirds of the dead and mutilated bodies left on the ground were women and children.
Boasting of his victory and downplaying Army casualties, Colonel John Chivington paraded the body parts of dead Cheyenne and Arapaho through the streets of Denver, Colorado, reveling in the acclaim he long-sought. However, not all of Chivington’s officers and men agreed with his actions, and soon the consequences of these actions would sweep up and down the Plains, back to Washington, D.C., and into the lives of thousands of people.