Return of the Native

Ben Nighthorse Campbell works in silver, but his future looks golden.

From there it was on to the Senate, and his inexplicable switch to the Republican Party, and then his equally inexplicable decision not to run again for the Senate. "On March 3, 2004," a final exhibit card notes, "Ben Nighthorse Campbell announced his retirement from the Senate and his intention to focus on his family and his art."

Not exactly. Campbell's jewelry on display here may not be for sale, but the senator himself sure was. Although an eagerness to return to Colorado was one of the few reasons Campbell offered for leaving the Senate, last month the high-powered law-and-lobbying firm of Holland & Knight announced that Campbell was joining its government section as a senior policy advisor -- he can't join as an attorney, since a law degree is one of the few things missing from his resumé -- working out of the Washington, D.C., office.

While Campbell won't be able to officially lobby his former colleagues in Congress for a year, the buffed and polished former politico is already making a rumored million bucks.

Back when people were questioning Campbell's political switch, they were also questioning his Indian ancestry. "What do they need, a blood test?" he asked a Westword reporter.

Campbell's "authorized" 1993 biography, Herman Viola's Ben Nighthorse Campbell: An American Warrior, did its best to clear things up. Although many tribal records had been destroyed, Viola theorized that not only was Albert Campbell's grandfather Black Horse, but his mother was a Cheyenne girl who'd escaped the Sand Creek Massacre, where 163 Indians were slaughtered by Colorado militia troops on November 29, 1864. As a U.S. senator, Campbell talked a lot about formally designating the massacre site in Kiowa County as a National Historic Site. But he waited so long to push the legislation that by the time it got through the Senate at the end of the last session, it was too late for the House.

Senate Wayne Allard is now shepherding the proposal through. Last Wednesday, the day the formal designation of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site passed the Senate Energy Committee, Campbell was talking about Churchill, now Colorado's most famous alleged Indian. The matter of whether Churchill was even an Indian was open for debate, Campbell told a radio audience. As he shared with another reporter, "He sure doesn't represent Indian country."

But Campbell sure doesn't represent Colorado anymore, either.

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