By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
But in 2000, when the next step in the move to create the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site was stalled in Congress, a woman appeared at the Colorado Historical Society and told Halaas she'd found some old documents; she wondered if they were worth anything. Buried in the trunk were the Cramer and Soule letters. Two weeks before the Senate hearing on Sand Creek, Halaas sent them to then-senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who read the letters aloud on the Senate floor. The bill passed; the site was a done deal.
Halaas tells this story over the clatter of a train. But then silence: another sign.
Braided Hair leads a traditional warrior song in honor of Cramer and Soule: "You are gone today, but the people remember you."
At 9 a.m., the Denver Police Department escort lines up to take the runners along Brighton Boulevard to the corner of 15th and Arapahoe, where a plaque commemorates the spot where Silas Soule was killed. Then the runners — sixty or seventy strong — turn up 14th Street and head to the State Capitol.
Standing a mile high on the Capitol steps, Braided Hair thanks the DPD for its help — just as he's thanked everyone who's supported the run, from the people who prepared the meal in Eads to the manager of the Comfort Inn in Limon, where the runners stayed. He thanks the representatives of the tribes who have gathered here, and again names the nations represented. The list has grown to a dozen.
Roberts congratulates the runners on behalf of the National Park Service. "You're an important part of history, but an important part of the future, too," she says. "The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is the same." Elicia Goodsoldier reads a proclamation from the City of Denver welcoming the runners to Denver; Ernest House, head of the Commission of Indian Affairs, reads one from Governor John Hickenlooper, dedicating November 28 through 30 to the Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run. "Cheers for Colorado," Braided Hair urges.
Across from the steps is a century-old monument to the Civil War battles in which residents of what was then the Colorado territory fought. The list includes Sand Creek. Back in 1998, even as the move to create a federal site commemorating the massacre was gaining momentum, there were demands that Sand Creek be removed from this list of Civil War battles. Joe Big Medicine argued against pulling down the monument, saying, "You'll be changing history if you tear it down," he tells the crowd. Instead, he pushed for a plaque explaining the massacre on the side of the monument that is there today, another sign of the times.
"Remember, we're healing the site, healing the land," says Braided Hair. "We're doing it for the ancestors, victims, survivors, descendants — those who can't be here today."
"History is not dead," Halaas says. "Sand Creek is not dead. The Arapaho and Cheyenne have not gone away."
And they'll be back in force next year, for a healing run that commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.
A few blocks down from the Capitol is History Colorado, which included Collision, an exhibit dedicated to the Sand Creek Massacre, when it opened in April 2012. But even before the building made its debut, members of the tribes were concerned about its contents and sent letters to History Colorado asking that the exhibit not be opened until their concerns were addressed. Instead, Collision opened on schedule, and it took three rounds of letters and, finally, a story in Westword before History Colorado agreed to consult with the tribes on the exhibit's contents — the least controversial portion of which was devoted to the healing run. While those consultations took place, Collision was locked up tight, a sign explaining that the exhibit was closed for tribal consultations.
Those consultations are now under way, and the tribes are considering the memorandum of agreement that has emerged from the discussions, considering how they want their story told. In the meantime, the exhibit remains closed off, with no sign at all of what was once there. But the tribes remember.