Stories from the Sand Creek Massacre retold and re-envisioned for today: We believe that new artists’ interpretations bring history to life and help us remember lessons from our past. Read the story, watch the artistic journey unfold, and find out how you can connect with our past. 


STRENGTH CAN COME FROM ANYWHERE; Remembering the Sand Creek Massacre


The Sand Creek Massacre was one of the worst atrocities ever perpetrated on Native Americans. At dawn on November 29, 1864, over 600 American soldiers commanded by Colonel John M. Chivington led a surprise attack on a village of Cheyenne and Arapaho along Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. While this dark chapter in history should never be forgotten, neither should the memory of those who fought for peace and justice - these are their stories.

Out of this dark place in history can come lessons of compassion and love.” - Dr. Henrietta Mann, Cheyenne elder.

Background - Mounting tension and calls for peace

The Sand Creek Massacre was the result of historical forces that occurred over three decades. American expansion dramatically changed how the Plains tribes lived - weakening their economic and physical security and decimating populations through introduced diseases. Control over land that had always belonged to the Plains tribes resulted in conflict. Over the years, there were many attempts to negotiate peace between the Cheyenne and Arapaho and US representatives. The last of these peace talks ultimately led the Plains tribes to camp at Sand Creek. In 1864, Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders contacted Major Edward Wynkoop at Fort Lyon, intending to secure peace with Colorado officials. Wynkoop escorted Cheyenne and Arapaho representatives, including Black Kettle, to Denver to meet with Colorado Governor John Evans and Chivington at Camp Weld. However, hopes of negotiating peace failed, replaced with a veiled threat of war against the Plains Indians. Instructed to turn themselves over to the authority of Wynkoop, the Indians drifted into Fort Lyon that autumn to find Major Scott Anthony had replaced Wynkoop. Anthony directed the bands to move north, to camp along the dry streambed of Sand Creek.

Delegates at Camp Weld

Cheyenne and Arapaho Delegation, Camp Weld, September 28, 1864. Kneeling in front are Major Edward W. Wynkoop (left) and Captain Silas Soule. The seated delegates are (l-r) Neva, Bull Bear, Black Kettle, White Antelope, and No-ta-nee.

The events of November 29, 1864

On November 29, Colonel John M. Chivington rode north from Fort Lyon and led 675 troops in a surprise attack on the village. Over the day, Chivington’s forces killed over 230 of the nearly 700 people in the village, including 150 women, children, and the elderly. Among the dead was the Arapaho leader Niwot (Left Hand) who worked tirelessly to establish peace - just six years earlier, he accommodated prospectors who camped on his land in what is now Boulder.

Artwork by Howling Wolf

Depiction of the Sand Creek Massacre by artist Howling Wolf.

Courageous acts - finding strength in the face of horror

Despite the horror that unfolded, many courageous acts stemmed from the Sand Creek Massacre. For Cheyenne elder Dr. Henrietta Mann, the story is difficult to talk about - she had two great grandmothers (one of which was wounded) and one grandmother who lived through the Sand Creek Massacre. But, “because of these brave-hearted young women who sought safety, I am here today,” she says. The memory of Sand Creek also lives on in the hearts and minds of other descendants, and the community today, where each person has their own story to tell.

Silas SouleSoule and Cramer take a stand

In addition to the brave individuals who sought safety, there were those on the other side who refused to participate at all; Silas Soule and the men of Company D, along with Joseph Cramer of Company K. Making his intentions clear, Soule even received a threat of hanging from Chivington the night before the attack.

Aftermath - sharing truths and righting wrongs from the past

Over the decades, descendants have fought to assure the truth about the event is not forgotten and to make sure such atrocities never happen again. Cheyenne Elder, Dr. Mann emphasizes the importance of this work explaining that “unless we are very careful, history can repeat itself.”  One of the most influential changes was Congress’ approval of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in 2000. Among other charges, the act assured that the National Park Service would preserve the landscape of the massacre site, enhance public understanding of the massacre, and assist in minimizing the chances of similar incidents in the future. The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site opened to the public on June 1, 2007. The strength of the Cheyenne and Arapaho cultures is also evident during the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run from the massacre site to Denver, which, for more than twenty years, has confronted multi-generational trauma and established a path to healing. It is during this event that the letters of Captain Silas Soule are read aloud.

Soule and Cramer tell the truth

In the wake of the Sand Creek Massacre, letters from Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer were shared with military leaders and political figures, describing the truth of what happened during the attack at Sand Creek. The accounts told by Soule and Cramer sparked official inquiries into the atrocity and both men testified before an Army commission in Colorado. While the officers and soldiers responsible escaped punishment, their testimony led to widespread condemnation of Chivington, who never stopped defending the massacre. Soule and Cramer also wrote letters to Major Edward Wynkoop, the previous commander at Fort Lyon who had dealt fairly with the Cheyenne and Arapaho. Describing the attack to Wynkoop, Soule wrote:

You would think it impossible for white men to butcher and mutilate human beings as they did there, but every word I have told you is the truth, which they do not deny. It was almost impossible to save any of them.” - S.S. Soule.

These investigations also ended the political career of Governor Evans, who had issued two proclamations calling for violence against the Plains Indians.

Lessons for today

A visit to Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is a chance to honor those whose lives were lost and to remind us why such atrocities should never happen again. It also serves as a reminder that we can find strength in adversity. The actions of many brave souls, including Black Kettle, Soule, Cramer and the survivors of Sand Creek, reflect the true meaning of courage and integrity.

People to remember 

Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle - The peacemaker

Chief Black KettleOne of the men who sought a policy of peace was Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle. In 1861, he signed the Fort Wise Treaty intending to secure lands for his people. The treaty, which reduced indigenous lands by over 90 percent, was not signed by most Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs. The terms further weakened the Native Americans' position in Colorado. By 1864, increasing tensions dragged the peace effort down. Once again, Black Kettle and allied chiefs initiated talks with white authorities. The last was a fort commander who told the Indians to remain in their camp at Sand Creek until the commander received further orders. Black Kettle advocated for peace right up to the arrival of Chivington's army at Sand Creek, who tragically ignored the American flag and white flag of truce raised above his tipi. Black Kettle continued to advocate for peace following the attack despite his wife's severe wounds and the death of all other peace chiefs present at Sand Creek. In 1865, he signed a treaty and resettled on reservation land in Oklahoma. Three years later, he and his wife died in the Washita Massacre. They were both shot as they fled across the Washita River. Washita took place in modern-day Oklahoma and is also a National Historic Site managed by the National Park Service.

George Bent and Edmund Guerrier - Letters of peace

George Bent and Magpie George Bent, son of William Bent and Misanta (Owl Woman), and Edmund Guerrier, son of a French father and Cheyenne mother, helped with the peace efforts. Bent and Guerrier wrote letters on behalf of Black Kettle and other chiefs seeking peace talks and delivered them to Indian Agent S.G. Colley and the commander of Fort Lyon, Major Wynkoop. Guerrier witnessed the massacre and provided testimony. Bent, a survivor of the attack, continued to translate for peace chiefs and Indian Agents of the Cheyenne. 


Little Bear

Little BearLittle Bear fought back and barely survived the Sand Creek Massacre. He shared a firsthand account of the atrocity, which George Bent translated and mailed to author/historian George Hyde in 1906. 





MochiMochi, also known as Buffalo Calf Woman, survived the attacks by soldiers at Sand Creek and continued to fight white settlers until forced to surrender. Mochi became the only American Indian woman imprisoned by the U.S. Federal Government at Fort Marion (Castillo De San Marcos). Mochi, c. 1875



Captain Silas Soule 

Captain Silas SouleSoule and his company of soldiers refused to participate in the attack. In the days following, Soule wrote a detailed account of the event. He then testified against Chivington during the Army's investigation in 1865. Months later, Soule was shot and killed in Denver. Every November, Cheyenne and Arapaho hold a ceremony at the Sand Creek Massacre Site. This is followed by a healing run from Sand Creek to Denver, where the letters of Soule are read aloud. 


Joseph Cramer

Cramer and his men also refused to participate in the attack. Along with Soule, he wrote detailed accounts of what he saw that day and later testified against Chivington during the Army's investigation. 



The Birth of Stars by artist Doug Holdread
The Birth of Stars by artist Doug Holdread
Doug & Lori Holdread with Sand Creek Massacre Story Artwork

A Note From the Artist

The Birth of Stars is an iconic representation of the Sand Creek site and the Cheyenne people. For Doug and Lori, it was important to create an artwork that was sensitive to Native American culture: “I came across a Cheyenne belief in my research about how stars came into being - it tells the story of how the stars wandered in darkness, within the Earth, until they were attracted by the cottonwood trees. They traveled up through the roots and branches of the tree and burst forth from the terminal buds to take their places in the heavens.”

Reflecting on the Sand Creek Massacre

Life Chronicles

Want to show your support for our region and the local artists who created these incredible pieces? Now you can. Purchase an NFT of your favorite artwork. and we'll donate the proceeds to promote heritage tourism in southeast Colorado or the Leave No Trace Center of Outdoor Ethics.  

The Birth of Stars by artist Doug Holdread
Doug Holdread

NFT Artwork (UPDATE)

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A visit to Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is a chance to honor those whose lives were lost and to remind us why such atrocities should never happen again. To dive deeper into the story, add these experiences to your itinerary.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site near Eads
Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

Access the national historic site via a county road off Colorado State Highway 96. The Monument Hill area includes an overlook above Big Sandy Creek, a shade structure, and the Repatriation Area.

Sand Creek Visitor Center
Sand Creek Massacre Visitor and Education Center

The Visitor and Education Center is located in downtown Eads, Colorado. It provides education and orientation materials. On the second floor, there is an exhibit space featuring images of people connected to the Sand Creek Massacre.

Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site Map
Sand Creek Massacre Ranger Talks

Learn about the Massacre from an interpretive ranger at the Sand Creek National Historic Site. Talks are offered during regular park hours at 10 am and 2 pm and run for approximately 30 - 40 minutes.