"Secondly, we request to meet with you for an exhibit consultation conducted by an independent facilitator to be recommended by the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs. We believe this is an important step to take so that we may find the common ground necessary to move forward....

"As we work together, we do believe it is important to keep the Sand Creek exhibit open to the one-thousand-plus visitors we receive on a weekly basis, even while there are enhancements to be considered. I look forward to working together to reach common goals as we continue to share the important story that is the tragedy of Sand Creek to a broad museum-going audience."

More than two months later, Nichols says he is still waiting for a response from the Northern Cheyenne. But tribal members say they do not plan to reply to Nichols's "non-response response" — not after their third request that the exhibit be closed was denied.

Nichols insists that the Northern Cheyenne were consulted. "We have had consultations, and we're looking to continue those," he says. "I think the interactions were regarded, on our side, as a continuation.... On a number of points they suggested, we have made significant changes to the exhibit." But postponing the exhibit was not an option: Donors expected it. From the start, History Colorado had determined that Sand Creek would be one of the first stories featured. It "is an important story in Colorado's history, but it also is one that was highlighted through our audience research," Nichols explains. "We did a lot of research."

The Northern Cheyenne didn't need to do research. They knew the story. They lived the story. "Collision? It's a massacre," says Norma Gorneau, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Sand Creek Massacre Descendants Committee who learned about the massacre from her great-grandmother. "They're not even trying to meet us halfway. We had asked them specifically to at least make some corrections. We asked them to take it down because it's supposed to be entertaining for them, but for us it's a major incident that was done to us...a major tragedy done to us...and they want to minimize it. When they said that they weren't going to take it down, it brought up a bunch of angry feelings."

Steve Brady, a Northern Cheyenne who played a key role in the National Park Service discussion over the massacre site, says History Colorado did not make the same effort. "They more or less took off on their own," he says. "They've never really met with the tribes. History Colorado has got to be proactively involved with the tribes. That's the bottom line."

Without that involvement, as long as the exhibit remains open, they will not negotiate. Nor will the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma, who met with Ernest House, head of the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs, a few weeks ago. The Sand Creek Massacre is a "very important and sensitive subject," House allows. "We'll be meeting with History Colorado and trying to find the best way to move forward."

While the Northern Cheyenne and History Colorado appear at an impasse, other investigations of Sand Creek have begun. At Northwestern University, students are pushing to find out the role of territorial governor John Evans, who founded their school and, later, the University of Denver. Evans was also a charter member of the Colorado Historical Society.

And next week, Ari Kelman, an associate professor of history at the University of California, Davis, will be talking about his new book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, at History Colorado. A "study of the collision of history and memory, of past and present, at Sand Creek," it follows the decade-plus campaign to create the national site, which was finally dedicated in 2007. Many of the people now embroiled in the battle with History Colorado appear in the book, including Brady and his brother, Otto Braided Hair, as well as David Halaas, the former state historian who uncovered Soule's letter and is now working with the Northern Cheyenne.

"The process of coming together to decide what the monument should be began thirteen years ago and continues today," says Alexa Roberts, who worked with the tribes on the project and today is the superintendent of Bent's Old Fort/Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. "It is an ongoing process and always will be. Bringing parties together to decide on what the monument should be is an integral part of the stewardship of the site. Sometimes that has been a difficult process, but it is one that is grounded in mutual trust and respect, so all the parties get through difficulties and go forward together."

Forward into the past.

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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 editortopcommenter

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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