Patty Limerick: A memorial to the Sand Creek massacre of 1864

A marker at the site of the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado, where a militia attacked a peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho village, killing upwards of 200 people, mostly women, children and the elderly. Photo by Carptrash

Patty Limerick, Colorado’s state historian, seeks public comments on a proposal to place a memorial to the victims of the 1864 Sand Creek massacre on the grounds of the state Capitol in Denver:
On Nov. 29, 1864, in Colorado Territory, the human capacity for brutality, cruelty and violence reached an unfathomable intensity. In the Sand Creek Massacre, soldiers from the First and Third Colorado Regiments killed more than 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho people, including many women, children and elderly people. Many of the dead were unspeakably mutilated.

We cannot reverse the injuries and losses of that day. But we can agree to respect and acknowledge the memories that will never leave the Cheyenne and Arapaho people. We can exercise our souls and avoid any temptations to deny or dismiss this nadir in Colorado life.

This summer, a plan to place a memorial to Sand Creek on the grounds of Colorado’s Capitol is moving toward a definitive moment in decision-making. On Aug. 19, the Capitol Building Advisory Committee will vote on a recommendation to move forward with this monument.

Some readers may, initially, question the justification for this act of remembrance. This massacre happened long before present-day Coloradans were on the planet. But history does not start on the day of our birth. We are brought into a world reconfigured and sometimes haunted by the actions of our predecessors.

The Sand Creek Massacre was not an isolated misfortune. It was a founding episode in the history of Colorado, and an event of great consequence and significance for the nation as a whole.

Get the Story:
Patty Limerick: From Sand Creek to Dallas, and from brutality to grace (The Denver Post 7/16)