By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
"Here's the place the U.S. caused a great tragedy," Roberts says, "then takes responsibility to manage the place where we will never forget." Today, the NPS has three missions, she tells the group: "to honor those killed here, to honor those in the present generation, and to the future." To that end, she says, "we're trying to create a research center that will be in Eads. It is a global story; it is a story about humanity."
And there are more stories. Henry Little Bear is representing the Southern Arapaho; his great-great grandfather, Mixed Hair, survived the massacre. "That's why I'm standing here today," he says. His great-grandmother, who was born in 1885 and lived until 1966, passed the stories she'd heard from her father to her grandchildren, who told them to Henry Little Bear. And now he's telling them again. "This place has a haunting spot in our hearts," he says.
Joe Big Medicine is here representing the Southern Cheyenne; his grandfathers were killed at Sand Creek. He's been part of the run from the beginning.
Together, the tribal representatives gather to sing the White Antelope song, in honor of the chief who was killed just down the hill.
And then, after many admonitions to be careful, the runners circle the Sand Creek Battle Ground marker four times and head off toward Eads, which may be the future home of a global research site but today is closed up entirely except for the Kiowa County Fairgrounds building where the National Park Service employees will serve a Thanksgiving dinner to those on the run.
Healing takes many forms.
Unlike that first healing run, and a few others over the past fifteen years, the 2013 run will not cover the full 180 miles. Not on foot, anyway. That first year, the runners risked their lives on highways; now cars will take the runners along the busiest stretches.
Many of those runners are children who've come from the reservations. They run in half-mile and mile intervals, between van rides, taking turns carrying the Northern Cheyenne flag (the girls) and the eagle staff made by Lee Lone Bear (the boys). Vanessa Braided Hair, now 29, has been running since the very start; this year she drove a vanload of kids down from Lame Deer, Montana. Kaden Walksnice has been running for the past seven years; last year, he organized a group of students — Blackfoot, Flathead — who came down from Missoula. This time, he took the bus up from Albuquerque, where he's now in school. One year, he remembers, he ran seven miles straight without even knowing it, while singing a prayer song he'd been taught by the elders.
On the second day, the actual anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, this relay of boys and girls makes it fifty miles, running from morning until dark on the back roads of the dusty plains, Pikes Peak to the side, Denver ahead. They're running for their past. They're running to their future. They are the future.
On the last day of November, the runners gather at Riverside Cemetery on Brighton Boulevard in Denver, between the train tracks and the South Platte that brought so many settlers to a land where once just the tribes gathered, to again be painted and protected. And again Otto Braided Hair greets those who have come out, a crowd that now includes professors from the University of Denver (which is studying Evans's role in the Sand Creek Massacre), Methodist representatives (who are doing the same regarding the church's role in the massacre), historians, more tribal representatives and even more runners. "We appreciate your support on this last day of our healing run, which is dedicated to Captain Silas Soule," Braided Hair proclaims. Soule, who is buried at Riverside, but also Lieutenant Joe Cramer: "They were at the Sand Creek Massacre, they didn't participate, they didn't shoot. They witnessed the massacre, then provided affidavits," he says. "If not for them, there might not be any Cheyenne and Arapaho here today. If they had done what they were ordered to, there might not have been any Cheyenne and Arapaho who survived."
And without their letters, there might not have been any Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, former Colorado state historian David Halaas, now a consultant with the Northern Cheyenne, tells the gathering. Soule and Cramer were so outraged and shocked by what they'd witnessed on November 29, 1864, that they wrote their commander, Major Edward "Ned" Wynkoop, asking him to use his influence. He did, and those letters led to two congressional investigations and an Army hearing that determined "the so-called battle was a slaughter of women and children and old ones," and officially declared a massacre 149 years ago, says Halaas. "No other battle of the Civil War was investigated like Sand Creek." Even so, only one perpetrator was punished: Territorial Governor John Evans, a Methodist who'd founded the forerunner of the University of Denver with Methodist minister Chivington that year, was removed from office after committee members branded him the "biggest liar" ever to come before them.
Soule was punished in a different way. "He knew his letters would make him a target," Halaas says. And sure enough, in April 1865, when he was serving as provost marshal of Denver, which was then under martial law, Soule was shot dead at the corner of 15th and Arapahoe streets; his assassins, although known, were never brought to justice. And then those letters disappeared, "lost to history."