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The Sand Creek Massacre
Digital History ID 693

Author:   George Bent
Date:1864

Annotation: The discovery of gold in the Pike's Peak region of Colorado ignited a rush of tens of thousands of miners onto Indian lands. The Arapahoe and Cheyenne retaliated by raiding white settlements from 1861 to 1864. By the end of 1864, the Indian raids had been suppressed, and a group of Cheyenne sought government protection. The Third Colorado Volunteers under Colonel John Chivington attacked the Cheyenne November 29, 1864, killing between 200 and 450 Indians. George Bent offers an eyewitness account of the massacre.


Document: When I looked toward the chief's lodge, I saw that Black Kettle had a large American flag up on a large lodge pole as a signal to the troop that the camp was friendly.... Black Kettle kept calling out not to be frightened; that the camp was under protection and there was no danger. Then suddenly the troops opened fire on this mass of men, women, and children, and all began to scatter and run.

The main body of Indians rushed up the bed of the creek, which was dry, level sand with only a few little pools of water here and there... As we went along we passed many Indian, men, women and children, some wounded, others dead, lying on the sand and in pools of water. Presently we came to a place where the main party had stopped, and were now hiding in pits that they had dug in the high bank of the stream....

The soldiers concentrated their fire on the people in the pits, and we fought back as well as we could with guns and bows, but we had only a few guns. The troops did not rush in and fight hand to hand, but once or twice after they had killed many of the men in a certain pit, they rushed in and finished up the work, killing the wounded and the women and children that had not been hurt. The fight here was kept up until nearly sundown, when at last the commanding officer called off the men.... As they went back, the soldiers scalped the dead lying in the bed of the stream and cut up the bodies....

Source: George Bird Grinnell, The Fighting Cheyennes (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1956), 177-80.

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