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And when the tribe was consulted, they did not like what they found. A quote from George Bent, a survivor of the massacre, had been edited beyond all meaning. Dates were wrong; spellings were incorrect. A letter written by Soule was to be featured, but it was one he'd written his mother: "I was never much of a Christian and am naturally wild. Our Col. is a Methodist Preacher and whenever he sees me drinking, gambling, stealing or murdering, he says he will write to Mother."

Chivington himself seemed to be getting off easy — especially since in 1865, the congressional committee considering his actions had said it could "hardly find fitting terms to describe his conduct.... He deliberately planned and executed a foul and dastardly massacre which would have disgraced the veriest savages."

Convery traveled to Billings, Montana, to meet with Northern Cheyenne and Sand Creek massacre descendants that December. And in a letter dated January 5, 2012, he and Edward Nichols, president and CEO of History Colorado, told Fox: "We sincerely apologize that we have not consulted the tribes earlier.... The work we have done together in the past, which continues to include our exhibit program today, has been productive and important. It is precisely because we value these relationships and honor the tribes that an exhibit about the Sand Creek Massacre becomes a critical piece of our opening exhibition plan. This story is one the people of Colorado need to know."

They promised they would consider feedback from the meeting and give all the tribes a chance to review exhibit content.

Convery's doctoral dissertation is titled "Colorado Stories: Interpreting Colorado History for Public Audiences at the History Colorado Center." In it, he recalls that Billings meeting as "bruising," as "consultants from all three tribes expressed their deep sense of personal pain, insult, and outrage at History Colorado's interpretation, and requested a formal apology from the lead developer and the institution's CEO."

Instead, they got another meeting in March 2012, when the Northern Cheyenne asked that the exhibit's opening — slated for April 28, the day the new History Colorado building would make its debut — be postponed. History Colorado declined, but did make some changes. The edited and out-of-context quotes were fixed, the Soule and Cramer letters added (one copy of each), and an oral history station — featuring descendants of the massacre speaking in 1996 — put at the very end of Collision, right around the corner from the zombies. But the tribe was not satisfied with what opened to the public. Collision was still filled with "errors and omissions," Fox wrote Nichols on August 12. "Others reveal shabby research and a shocking lack of curatorial understanding of the massacre, the events surrounding it, and its meaning to history." On behalf of the tribe, he "respectfully" requested that Collision be closed and that History Colorado "schedule meaningful consultation meetings with the tribes so that we may work together to produce an exhibit that properly interprets Sand Creek and its profound meaning to our tribes, the nation and the world."

But Nichols again declined to close the exhibit. On November 5, more than six months after Collision had opened, Fox wrote, "We have determined that if you are sincere in your request for collaboration, we will agree to make one last attempt." But that attempt was dependent on several conditions, including History Colorado's admitting that "past consultation meetings — which came only at our request — failed and agree that any future collaboration be conducted with mutual respect and a willingness to better interpret the massacre and its profound meaning to the tribes, the nation and the world." Most important, Fox said, the tribe wanted a promise "that the exhibit will be closed to the public during the reinstallation.... As the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre approaches, we also see this as an opportunity to expose some alarming truths and make known our fears that some attitudes have not changed with the passage of time."

On November 21, Nichols replied: "I apologize if my letter...offended you or the Northern Cheyenne people, as that was not my intent. My goal is for us to understand each other and move forward in regard to the exhibit on the Sand Creek Massacre. My hope is that this letter serves this purpose and we can reopen the door for dialogue.

"We believe there are two positive steps we can take in order to move forward. First, we propose to launch an audience survey of museum visitors who view the Sand Creek exhibit by an independent firm. This will enable us to better understand how our visitors are receiving and interpreting the information in the exhibits.

 "The Sand Creek Massacre is a story that is not widely known by the citizens of our state, and we believe it is a vital story to share. We designed the new museum, and many of our exhibits, to allow our visitors to understand the multiple and complex viewpoints at various points in history. For the Sand Creek Massacre, our presentation was designed as a way to help our audiences become aware of how such a tragedy could have possibly occurred, as well as to generate ideas about how we can apply the lessons learned from the past to today. This exhibit is receiving a positive response by museum visitors, who after viewing it have expressed feeling both more informed and moved by the story of Sand Creek. Audience testing will help us define the specific areas that are resonating the most, as well as those areas that need to be revised. We will share the results of this audience survey with the tribes.

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10 comments
iowastate
iowastate

I grew up near the Pine Ridge Reservation and took summer vacations there with my best friend at the time, who's mother was Sioux.   I would have been more qualified to develop the Sand Creek memorial than the so called historians who perpetrated this thing.

I may not be a native American but I am at least aware of what happened at the massacre and I do know that Chivington was one of the biggest villains in the so called "Indian Wars"

robertecoberly
robertecoberly

I buried my heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown is a book that explains what happened at Sand Creek and all over the United States.

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editor

i'd be interested in publishing some of these comments in our letters to the editor section, ideally with the authors full name/town. if that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com

rain
rain

It's clear that History Colorado isn't interested in actual history. They continue the tradition of dumbing down and whitewashing exhibits in the name of appealing to the masses and entertaining the children. They treat the people of the nations as though they were irrelevant, that the descendants of the people who were massacred are unimportant. Why are there no presentations from the nations themselves? More important to have "experts" from outside tell them what happened to their own ancestors, I guess.

Ro DuBose
Ro DuBose

It's sad some of society still has not learned the destruction greed and hate will create.

Oleha Verlander
Oleha Verlander

wow...heart breaking, the truth and the facts need to be highlighted everywhere!

WalksAlone
WalksAlone

I am so sick and tired of white people telling stories of native peoples. Why won't you let them tell their own stories, if they choose to? Maybe you should ask them if they would like to tell the world what really happened to them, no matter where it was, or what time period it was? When whites tell these stories, they omit or water down the atrocites that were committed. It is a lie to make these omissions. Are white historians afraid of exposing the true savageness and depravity of the whites who were involved in these events? The truth needs to be told or our history will remain tainted and full of holes. People, all people, need to know the absolute truth about Sand Creek, Wounded Knee and all the other massacres and crimes that were perpetrated on the native people in this country. Let the native people tell their own stories. They should be in control of any project that relates to them. What's done, is done. If you call yourself a historian, you have a duty to tell it exactly as it was. Otherwise, it's not history and you may as well be writing a novel. Native people have a lot to say... it's time whites stand down and let the people speak.

rlaurie
rlaurie

The Ari Kelman lectures at the History Colorado Center at 1 and 7 p.m. are full - an additional lecture was added at 3:30 p.m.

maxplanck0
maxplanck0

FYI: Prof. Ari Kelman, whose work on Sand Creek is mentioned in Patricia's excellent piece, will be speaking @ The Tattered Cover LoDo, Wednesday, 2/20 @ 7:30 PM


 
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