18 October 2005

Sand Creek Memorial Run. . .

Hoka Hey! These are amazing youths. Their Families, their Ancestors and their Oyate should all be very proud of them.
We are very proud of these young Warriors!

Hoka Hey!

Sand Creek Memorial Run Ignites Emotions

Sand Creek memorial run ignites emotions
© Indian Country Today October 17, 2005. All Rights Reserved
Posted: October 17, 2005
by: Rick St. Germaine / Indian Country Today

Cheyenne/Arapaho runners confront city of Denver

DENVER - More than three dozen Cheyenne and Arapaho runners carrying ceremonial eagle staffs burst into the colossal Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver, wove their way down carpeted hallways, and finally formed a Grand Entry procession that riveted the attention of more than 1,000 educators assembled at the National Indian Education Association Convention.

The runners, many of whom were teenagers, wide-eyed and sinewy in their running gear, suddenly became solemn as an Arapaho drum group rendered several tribal songs for this special occasion. Cheyenne and Arapaho elders blessed the runners, then turned to address the large assembly with stories of American atrocity at Sand Creek, where, in 1864, 800 Colorado vigilantes attacked a peaceful Indian village of mostly women, children and elders.

With their young men out hunting, about 170 defenseless villagers were annihilated on a cold November morning.

At first sight of the soldiers circling around the encampment, Southern Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle raised the American flag and a white flag above his tipi. It made no difference.

Col. John Chivington's raiders fired 2,000 pounds of howitzer and rifle ammunition upon the helpless Indians; then, in a crazed fury, they moved in with sabers and knives to hack the wounded and dying to bits.

Stunned Indian educators from more than 150 tribes wiped tears from their faces as they listened to the stories of savagery and of modern-day attempts of the Southern and Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes to raise Americans' consciousness about this horrific event with legislative recognition, annual spiritual healing runs and education awareness.

This year's Sand Creek Massacre Memorial Run began with prayers and blessings 48 hours earlier on Oct. 5 at the killing site, about 200 miles to the southeast. Runners pushed their away along rural roads and semi-modern highways on their way to the NIEA Convention.

Many of the tribal runners had done this before - on Nov. 29 of previous years, when it was raining, snowing and windy. Billy Mills, Olympic gold medalist and founder of Running Strong for American Indian Youth, was with them, as he has been for so many tribal communities.

''Body parts and scalps, cut up by the soldiers, were paraded past cheering crowds in the streets of Denver,'' noted Steve Brady, vice chairman of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Lame Deer, Mont.

According to Brady, some of those remains still reside in museums - one of which is in Denver, just blocks from the convention center. He was one of several spokesmen for the descendants of the massacre.

''Officers at Fort Lyon told Chivington that the Sand Creek village was at peace, they were on their reservation where they belonged; but it didn't matter,'' said Brady, who at times paused to steady himself.

''My great-grandparents woke up to the sounds of gunfire,'' he stated, ''and horses stampeding through camp.

''He roped a horse with his lariat and put his wife on a horse, even though he was wounded in the elbow,'' added Brady, again pausing. ''Then he sang his death song - 'Only the stones will live forever ...' - which we still sing today.''

Brady explained that Black Kettle - his great-grandfather - went miles upstream in search of his wife, who was pregnant with their first child.

''Black Kettle, who had put on his peace medals for the soldiers to see, left his wife - who was drenched in blood - as he assumed she was dead,'' said Brady, again clearing his throat before he moved on.

''Killings went on all day ... then the cavalry moved in and the butchering commenced,'' he continued.

Chivington later took to the Denver stage, where he charmed audiences with his stories of the massacre and displayed 100 Indian scalps, including the pubic hair of women.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho headmen later brought their hunters back to the village to look for survivors and gather the horses. Brady's great-grandfather told his son that the entire village was decimated, with piles of burned bodies and burned buffalo robes. Camp dogs were feeding on the bodies.

Black Kettle found his pregnant wife, who didn't miscarry. Their first son, the uncle of Brady's father, was named Whistling Elk.

''This has had a profound impact on my life and my family,'' he said, ''and we try to do our best to perpetuate the memory of our ancestors.''

''Going to school, we were all told a different point of view of this,'' stated Tina Hurtado, the great-great-granddaughter of Black Kettle. Hurtado, a Southern Cheyenne, came to the NIEA convention to experience this moment.

''When we were young, we heard the truth about this - Sand Creek, Washita, and Little Big Horn - from our grandparents,'' she said.

Lee Pedro, Arapaho from Oklahoma, told the assembly that recently (as in seven years ago), the Cheyenne and Arapaho decided it was time to bring closure, to bring back the bones to give them a respectful burial they deserve.

He continued, ''You can still feel it - the mournful bad feelings - and we pray that it gets better.''

The three tribes have lobbied Congress for legislation to assist the National Park Service and the state of Colorado in the development of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site near Chivington, Colo. Two thousand and five hundred of the 12,500 acres Congress authorized for the site have now been purchased. The site is not yet open to the public, as the remaining property is still under private ownership.

''The spirits of the deceased are still there,'' stated Carol White Skunk, Southern Cheyenne from Weatherford, Okla. ''There's a very spiritual feeling there.''

Colley Willow and Shayne Armajo, Northern Arapaho and recent graduates from St. Stephens High School on the Wind River Reservation, participated in the trek from Sand Creek to Denver and are veterans of previous memorial runs. The two were stars on the basketball team that won the Wyoming state championship in 2004.

''It is a special place for us,'' said Willow, ''and it looks exactly like [the paintings].''

Until the national historic site opens, the descendants provide teacher-training workshops to improve awareness and truth about the tragic event with attention to American circumstances that led to the massacre.

''A teacher here walked out of our curriculum workshop,'' said Brady, ''because she thought this shouldn't be taught to students.'' But the descendants are determined. The memory of Sand Creek lives on in their hearts and in their minds.

The descendants can be contacted at www.sandcreek.org.

Rick St. Germaine can be contacted at stgermainerick@aol.com.


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