Sand Creek Massacre

Photo of Sand Creek Massacre Monument
Sand Creek Massacre Monument

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Tensions were high in the fall of 1864 when a band of Cheyenne and Arapaho established an encampment on the banks of Sand Creek near Fort Lyon in the Colorado Territory. The spring and summer had seen an escalation of violence on the frontier encouraged by Territorial Governor John Evans and the local military commander, Col. John Chivington.

The community on Sand Creek represented a faction of Cheyenne who favored accommodation with the whites and they believed these pacific views would keep their community safe. They were stunned then, when on the morning of November 29, 1864, 700 troops of the First Colorado Volunteer Cavalry, Third Colorado Cavalry and a company of First New Mexico Volunteers under Col. Chivington attacked their village.

In the ensuing massacre, some 53 men and 110 women and children were killed and many others wounded. The leadership ranks of the tribes' peace faction were decimated, which led to higher levels of violence in the months to come as the war faction within the tribes led by the Dog Soldiers gained strength.

Today the Sand Creek battlefield is preserved by the National Park Service as Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, authorized by Public Law 106-465 on November 7, 2000. The purposes of the Act are to recognize the national significance of the massacre in American history, and its ongoing significance to the Cheyenne and Arapaho people and massacre descendants. The Act authorized establishment of the national historic site once the NPS had acquired sufficient land from willing sellers to preserve, commemorate, and interpret the massacre. After the purchase of the William Dawson ranch and its subsequent transfer to the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, tribal resolution conveyed the 1,300 + acres to the National Park Service. Federal trust legislation was then passed clearing the way for NPS management. The park opened to the public on June 1, 2007.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Last updated: April 9, 2021