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(CO) Grateful descendants visit site of massacre

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  • Tim Hundsdorfer
    http://www.longmontfyi.com/Local-Story.asp?id=3164 Grateful descendants visit site of massacre Thanks to new law, land will now be protected By Anthony A.
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 15, 2005
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      Grateful descendants visit site of massacre
      Thanks to new law, land will now be protected

      By Anthony A. Mestas
      The Pueblo Chieftain

      EADS - As Joe Big Medicine spoke Thursday about his Indian tribe, the dark
      sunglasses he wore reflected the brushy landscape where several of his
      ancestors had been killed in a brutal attack against innocent women and

      Big Medicine and three other Southern Cheyenne Indians slowly walked to the
      top of a hill overlooking the site of the Sand Creek Massacre, each flush
      with happiness knowing that the hallowed ground will now be protected.

      But at the same time, the gnawing reality of the senseless slaughter that
      occurred in 1864 remained in their souls.

      In the early morning of Nov. 29, 1864, Col. John M. Chivington led
      approximately 700 members of the Colorado militia in a surprise attack on
      the camp, killing about 150 people - mainly women, children and the elderly.

      The visiting Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians said they experienced both pain
      and pleasure while touring the site.

      "I feel a sense of sorrow every time I visit this site. I think of
      everything that happened here, but now there is hope because this land will
      be protected forever and the memory of our ancestors will carry on," said
      Big Medicine, a member of the Southern Cheyenne Tribe of Oklahoma.

      "A lot of people were killed here, but the fact that we are standing here
      today is proof that there were survivors - this is a big deal for all of
      us," he added in a soft voice.

      Big Medicine was accompanied by Steve Brady and Otto Braided Hair of the
      Northern Cheyenne Tribe and William Pedro of the Southern Arapaho Tribe.

      Brady, who traveled from Lame Deer, Mont., said that it felt good to be back
      at the site.

      "I am a fourth-generation descendant of the Sand Creek Massacre. My
      great-grandmother and great-grandfather were here during the attack, and
      they survived it. It's a special place for us, and I am happy that
      legislation to make this an historic site has passed," Brady said.

      Last week, President Bush signed the legislation creating the Sand Creek
      Massacre National Historic Site. The bill had been approved last month by
      the U.S. House and Senate. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Allard,
      R-Colo., and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., transfers title to 1,465 acres
      of land from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes to the Park Service.

      Musgrave visited the site on Colorado's eastern plains, 170 miles southeast
      of Denver, for the first time Thursday.

      "I have a real heart for history even when it is something that is so
      incredibly painful and shameful, but we need to acknowledge what happened
      here. It's a very incredible thing to stand up here on this hill and
      overlook all of this," Musgrave said.

      "This is the first bill that I have sponsored that has been signed into law,
      and I am very grateful to have carried on what others have done before me.
      It's a great feeling to know that you could be in Congress and do something
      like this," she added.

      Retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Colorado Republican and Northern
      Cheyenne chief, made it one of his top priorities to establish the memorial.
      Brady, who testified for the legislation before the Senate every time it
      came up, credited Campbell for his effort.

      "We really want to thank former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell for all the
      work he has done. He got this project up and running, and I am happy that
      Allard and Musgrave have carried on with his vision," Brady said.

      Descendants of the Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians killed at the site already
      are making big plans.

      Big Medicine said that he and others plan to return some of their ancestors'
      remains to the site. He said the tribes know of the remains of seven people
      killed there and have taken possession of three.

      The remaining four will soon be collected. Big Medicine said the remains
      will be stored at Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site outside La Junta in

      The remains will be there until a site is selected to place them at Sand

      "We will have a blessing ceremony at the Colorado Historical Society in
      Denver before we transfer the remains to Bent's Fort, and then we will have
      another ceremony at the massacre site when the transfer is complete," he

      Big Medicine said the Sand Creek Massacre Committee chose to store the
      remains of their ancestors at Bent's Fort because it is the nearest National
      Historic Site. The committee will use a $15,000 National Park Service grant
      to transfer the remains.

      Big Medicine and other committee members will personally deliver the remains
      to Bent's Fort. Currently, the remains are at the University of Nebraska and
      the University of Oklahoma.

      Big Medicine said there is a lot of work left to be done at the site before
      it is open to the public, including construction of an interim visitor
      center, parking space and fixing the mile-long, winding access road.
      National Park officials say that once the site is established, some 40,000
      people will visit the site each year.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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