One of the most tragic events that occurred across the great plains. November, 1864, 675 cavalry men of spot the camps of Chief Black Kettle, White Antelope, and Left Hand in the valley below them.
The Events Leading to Sand Creek Massacre
Tensions between the US Government and Indians have come to a boil. Incorporation of Colorado as a state, discovery of gold and other valuable minerals, and the desire to shrink the land and move the Indians to a new reservation. Many of the Indians do not agree with this new treaty (it was clearly a bad deal for them), and they have continued to defy calls to sign and move. Skirmishes between settlers and Indians continue and bloodshed is experienced on both sides.
In October, hundreds of Cheyenne and Arapahoe assembled at Sand Creek (on the northern edge of the Arkansas Reservation). The village of sand creek had 33 chiefs and headmen of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe present.
Earlier in November, officials from the US military meet with Cheyenne and Arapahoe chiefs to negotiate. They request the Arapahoe to move further south in the Arkansas reservation. In late November troop movements from nearby start to converge on Fort Lyon.
Sand Creek Massacre
On the evening of November 28th, they depart Fort Lyon and ride towards Sand Creek. 675 cavalry men and 4 12-pounder mountain howitzers.
Dawn, November 29th. Colonel Chivington orders the attack. The scene is chaos, horrific, bloody. Over 230 Cheyenne and Arapahoe (including 150 women, children, and elderly) were massacred by the attacking regiments. Many of the bodies mutilated.
The Aftermath of the Massacre
Two letters, penned by Captain Silas Soule, and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer describe in detail the scenes and terror of the massacres. The letters circulate wide and in many ways lead to an investigation of the incident. Captain Silas was later murdered in Denver, in part for the words he penned here.
In retaliation for the attacks Cheyenne, Arapahoe and Lakota attack many towns and settlements in Colorado. Congress beings to investigate the incident that lead to these events. Major Edward Wynkoop performs the investigation, interviewing many soldiers present for the attack. Ends up describing Chivington as an “inhumane monster”.
Evans is removed as governor for his role in the massacre. The treaty of Little Arkansas proclaims Sand Creek a Massacre. Reparations are promised (although never paid). Chivington is condemned for leading the massacre, although for many (especially in Denver) considered a hero.
Visiting the Site
The interpretive center is the first place to visit at the site. Rangers there are really knowledgeable about the history and area. They do a good job providing an overview of the events, the tragedy, and the area today.
Around the center, visitors can walk and look at the area and read various postings on the war and aftermath. Be sure to check out the boards with the two letters, written about the massacre from Captain Silas and Lieutenant Cramer.
From here there is a trail that leads up to the overlook and monument. There are two ways to get to this site. For those who want to walk, it is a nice walk, although in hot weather it can be a bit tougher. Additionally, there is a road that leads up to the monument as well.
The actual site of the massacre is located behind the trees in the distance by Big Sandy Creek. However, the location of actual site is not shared, and you cannot go look or visit it. The site is only for descendants of the tribes who were here. It is sacred land.
At the Site: Located near the entrance to Sand River Massacre NHS. There’s also a bookstore and shop in the visitor center as well.
Sand River Interpretive Center: 910 Wansted St, Eads, CO 81036
Located in Downtown Eads, the Visitor and Education Center provides educational and historical material about the massacre site. The 2nd floor contains exhibits about the people connected to Sand Creek Massacre.
Thursday – Monday (9:00 am – 4:00 pm);
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day
National Park Passport Stamp
Located in the Visitor Center.
Places to Stay
Options for Hotels near the site are very limited. The place is quite rural and hotels in those areas are few and far between. The closest hotel is in Eads, Colorado
The Site is a good location to visit on your way to or from other Locations. You can find more options in Colorado Springs (143 miles | 2 hrs. 33 minutes) or from Denver (183 miles | 3 hrs). There are certainly a lot more options in those places. I stayed in hotels in Denver and went this direction on my way on a road trip through Kansas. It’s probably best as a stop on your way to other locations.
The site is a bit tricky to get to. The site is located about 23 miles east of Eads Colorado, close to the town of Chivington (I can’t believe they named the town after this guy…but not surprised).
Take highway 96E about 11 miles through the town of Chivington. Turn left onto Chief White Antelope Way (CR 54). You’ll be on this for about 7 miles. From here turn right (East) onto County Road W for about 1.3 miles.
You’ll see an entrance to the park here.
Other Nearby Sites and Information: