On Monday, Governor John Hickenlooper announced the creation of the Sand Creek Massacre Commemoration Commission, designed to further understanding of that dark chapter in Colorado history as the 50th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre approaches on November 29, 1964. And that process just got a big boost when Columbia University announced that The Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek, by Ari Kelman, a University of Denver alum, was one of two books awarded the Bancroft Prize, one of the top academic honors for American history. See also: John Hickenlooper, Edward Wynkoop, Black Kettle and the creation of the Sand Creek Commemorative Commission
On November 29, 1864, volunteer troops led by Colonel John Chivington killed more than 150 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribal members camped on the banks of Sand Creek. Three congressional investigations later, the action was officially labeled "a massacre" by the federal government in 1865. But for all the incident's infamy, the actual location of the massacre was lost to time, and it was just two decades ago that the search for the site began in earnest, in anticipation of a move to declare it a National Historic Monument. In his book, Kelman follows the process to not just identify the place where the massacre occurred, but deal with all the factions involved in the process, from historians to property owners to the descendents of those killed at Sand Creek, for whom the wounds are still very raw.
Kelman, today a professor of history at the University of California, Davis, is also the author of A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans, is at work on two books: Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War and For Liberty and Empire: How the Civil War Bled into the Indian Wars. He'll be back at the University of Denver at noon Monday, May 5, to discuss the Sand Creek Massacre as part of DU's sesquicentennial activities.
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But first, he'll be at Columbia for next month's Bancroft Prize dinner, where Columbia professor Ira Katznelson will also be honored for Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time.