Colorado History

A Sand Creek Massacre Memorial Would Join These Colorado Capitol Monuments

The grounds of the Colorado State Capitol hold many monuments — and if legislators approve the Sand Creek Massacre Memorial, they could soon hold one more. Here's an inventory of the pieces you'll find today outside the Capitol; descriptions (excluding editorializing) are from the site, where you'll also find photos and a map. And if you think it's grim to have a monument to a massacre, note that there are already two monuments to Armenian genocide at the Capitol — and the Sand Creek Massacre happened in Colorado territory, not an ocean away.
Civil War Monument
West Portico

This statue of a Civil War cavalryman, dismounted with rifle in hand, honors the Colorado soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War. The statue was designed by Captain Jack Howland, a member of the First Colorado Cavalry; it was erected in 1907, and the names of Coloradans reportedly killed in the service were added in the ’20s (though one was actually shot escaping a brawl in Denver). But the big addition came in 1999:

Sand Creek Interpretive Plaque
West Portico

Why did the Civil War Monument need interpreting? Because it lists Sand Creek as a “battle” — and even while the Civil War was still being waged, three investigations in Washington, D.C., determined that it was actually a massacre. By the late ’90s, some people wanted to remove the Civil War Monument altogether; the compromise was this plaque, written by historians and legislators and approved by descendants of the massacre, who preferred that the tragedy be remembered accurately rather than ignored altogether:

“The controversy surrounding this Civil War Monument has become a symbol of Coloradans’ struggle to understand and take responsibility for our past. On November 29, 1864, Colorado’s First and Third Cavalry, commanded by Colonel John Chivington, attacked Chief Black Kettle’s peaceful camp of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians on the banks of Sand Creek, about 180 miles southeast of here. In the surprise attack, soldiers killed more than 150 of the village’s 500 inhabitants. Most of the victims were elderly men, women, and children.

“Though some civilians and military personnel immediately denounced the attack as a massacre, others claimed the village was a legitimate target. This Civil War Monument, paid for by funds from the Pioneers’ Association and the State, was erected on July 24, 1909, to honor all Colorado soldiers who had fought in battles of the Civil War in Colorado and elsewhere. By designating Sand Creek a battle, the monument’s designers mischaracterized the actual events. Protests led by some Sand Creek descendants and others throughout the twentieth century have since led to the widespread recognition of the tragedy as the Sand Creek Massacre.

"This plaque was authorized by Senate Joint Resolution 99-017."

Keep reading for the rest of the monuments outside the Colorado State Capitol.

West Portico

The 1,250-pound brass cannons were manufactured by the Revere Copper Company in 1852-’63 and 1864-’65. “No one knows for certain how the cannons arrived in Colorado.”

Colorado Symbols and Emblems Fence
Lincoln Avenue

This fence was placed along the sidewalk at the bottom of the west steps in 1999.

Northeast Corner of the Capitol

Members of the Grand Masonic Lodges of Colorado dedicated and laid the inscribed granite cornerstone of the Capitol on July 4, 1890. In its rough state, the cornerstone weighed twenty tons and required sixty mules to haul it into place.

Time Capsule
Northeast Corner of the Capitol

This concrete slab with inscription is embedded in the lawn. Dedicated on August 4, 1990, the time capsule commemorates the passing of 100 years since the laying of the Capitol cornerstone.

Pearl Harbor Memorial
East Lawn

This stone bench and marker were dedicated in 1983 by the Colorado members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. The inscriptions say “Keep America Alert” and “Remember Pearl Harbor.”

“Closing Era”
East Lawn

This bronze statue of a Native American hunter examining his prey, a buffalo, represents the end of the traditional lifestyle of Native Americans in Colorado. At the August 19 hearing about the Sand Creek Massacre Memorial before the Capitol Building Advisory Committee, Metropolitan State University history professor Derek Everett noted that back in 1893, the initial proposal for the piece called for placing it on the west side of the Capitol, so that the future would be looking at the Rocky Mountains — and at a way of life that had passed. "There was a massive outcry from the aging pioneer community about former competitors getting the front door of the Capitol," he told the committee. The statue wound up on the east side.

Armenian Garden and Pine
East Lawn

This garden area was planted in memory of the between 1 and 1.5 million Armenian victims of the first genocide of the twentieth century, which occurred in Turkey beginning on April 24, 1915, and continued to 1923.

American Khachkar
East Lawn

This khachkar, crafted in Armenia, is a monument dedicated to the victims of genocide. It was dedicated in 2015, on the 100th anniversary of the start of the genocide.

USS Colorado Memorial
East Lawn

Dedicated in 1997, this stone bench and marker are dedicated to the men who served aboard the USS Colorado.

Volunteers of the Spanish American War Flagpole
Lincoln Park

This flagpole is dedicated to the Colorado volunteers of the Spanish American War of 1898. The flagpole has a red sandstone base, and it flied the Amerian and POW-MIA flags.

Liberty Bell
Lincoln Park

This full-size replica of the Liberty Bell was one of the 53 replicas cast in France in 1950 and donated to the U.S. government by “American industry and free enterprise.” One went to each state, plus the District of Columbia.

Colorado Tribute to Veterans Monument
Lincoln Park

Dedicated on November 10, 1990, the Colorado Tribute to Veterans Monument is both a memorial to the dead and a tribute to veterans of the past, present and future: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf and peace-time.

Joseph P. Martinez Statue
Lincoln Park

This twenty-foot-tall bronze statue honors Joseph P. Martinez, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1943 for acts of conspicuous bravery in the Aleutian Islands; he was the first hispanic Coloradan  to receive the Medal of Honor.

Ten Commandments Tablet
Lincoln Park

“The origin, dedication, and permission for placing this four-foot granite tablet inscribed with the Ten Commandments are somewhat unclear,” says the Capitol’s website. “Written records regarding the tablet seem to have been lost.” But the tablets themselves have not been forgotten, and periodically inspire lively discussions of the separation of church and state.

Sadie M. Likens Drinking Fountain
Lincoln Park

Unveiled on July 7, 1923, this bronze drinking fountain with plaque commemorates Sadie M. Likens for her constant care and treatment of War veterans. Upon her death on July 20, 1920, a group of veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic began raising funds for a monument to Likens. The fountain was completed and dedicated on July 7, 1923.

Memorial Pods, South: Amache Camp Plaque
Southeast Lawn

The south pod is designated for plaques recognizing person and groups that have been influential to Colorado's heritage. The south pod contains two plaques, one commemorating former governor Ralph Carr and the other in remembrance of the Amache internment camp.

Memorial Pods, North
Northeast Lawn

The north pod is designated as the location for plaques recognizing significant events in Colorado's history, and houses one donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of their organization.

Space Shuttle Challenger Aspen Grove
East Lawn

This grove of aspen trees commemorates the seven astronauts who lost their lives when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986.
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Contact: Patricia Calhoun