Hickenlooper Apologizes on Behalf of Colorado for Sand Creek Massacre

Gov. John Hickenlooper on the Capitol steps with Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal leaders in ceremonies commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre. Dec. 3, 2014.

State of Colorado

Gov. John Hickenlooper on the Capitol steps with Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal leaders in ceremonies commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre. Dec. 3, 2014.

At a ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol Wednesday morning, Gov. John Hickenlooper did something that his office said was historically unique among all Colorado governors: He apologized for the Sand Creek Massacre.

“We should not be afraid to criticize and condemn that which is inexcusable, so I am here to offer something that has been a long time coming,” Hickenlooper said, in prepared remarks to an assembled gathering of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal elders, Sand Creek descendants and others, including those who were concluding their participation in the 16th annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run.

“On behalf of the State of Colorado, I want to apologize to the runners, to the tribal leaders and to all the indigenous people – and the proud and painful legacy – you represent.

“On behalf of the good, peaceful, loving people of Colorado, I want to say we are sorry for the atrocity that our government and its agents visited upon your ancestors,” Hickenlooper said. “Today, as these runners complete their 16th Annual Sand Creek Spiritual Run, I want to assure you that we will not run from this history, and that we will always work for peace and healing.”

Hickenlooper’s remarks came during 150th anniversary observances of the surprise attack by the newly formed 3rd Colorado Regiment on a peaceful encampment of Arapaho and Cheyenne people along Sand Creek, some 23 miles east of the present day town of Eads in southeast Colorado.

The sun rises in this Sept. 7, 2014 photo on near the Sand Creek massacre site in southeast Colorado.  The 3rd Colorado Regiment attacked an encampment of Arapaho and Cheyenne people Ð who believed they were under the protection of the United States flag Ð  at sunrise on Nov. 29, 1864 in what became one of the most infamous episodes in the history of the American West. Some 200 Native Americans, largely women and children and the elderly, were killed.

Mariel Rodriguez-McGill / Rocky Mountain PBS

The sun rises in this Sept. 7, 2014 photo on near the Sand Creek massacre site in southeast Colorado. The 3rd Colorado Regiment attacked an encampment of Arapaho and Cheyenne people Ð who believed they were under the protection of the United States flag Ð at sunrise on Nov. 29, 1864 in what became one of the most infamous episodes in the history of the American West. Some 200 Native Americans, largely women and children and the elderly, were killed.

What followed became one of the most infamous episodes in the history of the American West, as some 200 Native Americans, largely women and children and the elderly, were killed, with many being mutilated for souvenirs. Some 200 more were wounded, according to historical accounts.

The healing run has become an annual tradition, covering the 180 miles between the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site to the Capitol in three-plus days, usually by relay teams. This year’s run held special significance because of the 150th anniversary, said park ranger Craig Moore.

Also in commemoration of the Sand Creek sesquicentennial is a powerful new documentary by Rocky Mountain PBS, which is now available for online viewing. After 150 years, the fateful story has lost none of its impact.

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To read more about the history of Sand Creek, click here.

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