History Colorado opened its phase two exhibit, Living West, this past weekend. It's right across the hall from the phase one exhibits that debuted with the museum in April 2012: Colorado Stories, or what's left of them.
The sections devoted to Bent's Fort, Camp Amache, Steamboat skiing, mining and Lincoln Hills are all there.
But the display about the Sand Creek Massacre? That's a different story.
The space that once held "Collision" is closed up tight. And History Colorado's website says only this: "Sand Creek Massacre Gallery: This exhibit is currently closed for Tribal consultations."
On November 29, 1864, Colonel John Chivington, a former Methodist minister, had led the 3rd Colorado Calvary on a raid of a peaceful Indian camp on Sand Creek, slaughtering more than 150 members of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes, most of them children, women and elderly men. It was one of the darkest stories in Colorado history, and one History Colorado wanted to acknowledge. But even before "Collision" opened, members of the tribes whose ancestors had been murdered at Sand Creek complained that they had not been consulted about the contents of the exhibit. And they complained even more forcefully after they saw what had been included in the exhibit -- starting with the name "Collision." It was a massacre, not a collision of cultures, they argued.
Finally, a year after the exhibit opened, History Colorado agreed to meet with tribal members, and in June "Collision" was closed during those consultations. By all reports, the talks were successful, but the memorandum of agreement between the tribes and History Colorado has not yet been signed, and the exhibit is still closed -- with no sign to indicate what was once there and no estimate on if and when a new exhibit will replace it.
"We removed the 'Collision' signs because neither the Tribes nor the audiences we tested thought the title was apt," says History Colorado spokeswoman Rebecca Laurie. "If visitors ask about it specifically, we let them know that the exhibit is closed while we are in the consultation process with the Tribes."
The least controversial portion of that exhibit dealt with more recent history: the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run, which Lee Lone Bear started in 1999. Although he passed away two years ago, the run continues. Every Thanksgiving, people meet at the site of the Sand Creek massacre, 160 miles southeast of Denver, to remember their ancestors at a sunrise service and start the run.
Two days later, the run arrives at Riverside Cemetery in Denver. That's where Lieutenant Silas Soule is buried; he was killed on the streets of Denver five months after he refused to fire on the natives at Sand Creek, and not long after he testified before Congress regarding Chivington's actions. From there, the runners will proceed to the steps of the State Capitol.
Here's the full schedule of the event:
149th Anniversary of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre November 29, 2013 A commemoration for victims and survivors of the massacre, and for healing of ancestral homelands.
15th Annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run/ Walk November 28-30, 2013
Thursday November 28th 7:00 AM Sunrise Ceremony at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, located 18 miles northeast of Eads in Southeastern Colorado 9:00 AM Commencement of 'Healing Run'
Friday November 29th 7:00 AM Sunrise Ceremony -- TBD Continue Healing Run to Denver
Saturday November 30th 8:00 AM Honoring Ceremony Riverside Cemetery, 5201 Brighton Boulevard, Denver Captain Silas Soule, Company D 1st Colorado Calvary, U.S. Army and Lieutenant Joseph A. Cramer, Company K 8th Ohio Calvary, U.S. Army
9:00 AM Continue 'Healing Run' from Riverside Cemetery to the Colorado State Capitol Building, 4 mile distance - MUST REGISTER TO RUN
10:00 AM At 15th and Arapahoe -- near the site where Soule was assassinated--the runners will join with walkers and continue to the State Capitol Building ALL PARTICIPANTS WALK THE LAST 1-MILE
Presentation at the Colorado State Capitol Building (West side)
7:00 PM Candlelight Vigil at the Denver Art Museum Wheel sculpture, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver
Find more information on the Healing Run Facebook page, and watch for updates here -- not just on the run, but on this state's ongoing attempts to grapple with the past as Colorado approaches the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.
More from the Calhoun: Wake Up Call archive: "A century and a half later, the wounds of Sand Creek are still fresh."
Have a tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.