History Colorado opens Sand Creek Massacre Exhibition in partnership with Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes

Three Tribal Nations and History Colorado collaborate to share the story of the atrocities of the Sand Creek Massacre.

A new exhibition on Nov. 19 The Sand Creek Massacre: The Betrayal That Changed the People of Cheyenne and Arapaho Forever, opened at the History Colorado Center in Denver. The exhibit chronicles the deadliest day in Colorado history—November 11, 1864—when US troops brutally attacked a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho who were promised military protection. More than 230 women, children and elders were murdered that day.

The exhibition was created in close consultation with representatives of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. For the first time, History Colorado will share the events of the Sand Creek massacre based on tribal accounts and the oral histories of the descendants of those who survived the massacre.

“It was genocide. We need to educate people and heal our people so this doesn’t happen again,” said Chester Whiteman (Southern Cheyenne). “I hope that this exhibition will make people understand that we are all human.”

“The Sand Creek massacre is sacred,” said Gail Ridgely (Northern Arapaho). “Historical commemoration, educational awareness, and spiritual healing are very important to the people of Cheyenne and Arapaho.”

History Colorado will shine a spotlight on the vibrant culture of the Cheyenne and Arapaho, two separate tribes with different histories forever linked after the Sand Creek tragedy. Forced to leave Colorado after the massacre, the Cheyenne and Arapaho exist today as three sovereign tribal nations in Montana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The exhibit is the result of a ten-year partnership process that began in 2012 between History Colorado and the three tribal nations.

“This exhibition offers universal, timely teachings that fear, racism, greed and stereotyping can and do lead to catastrophic consequences. History Colorado is committed to educating our community about this horrifying event in our history,” said Dawn DiPrince, History Colorado Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer. “We are grateful to our Tribal Partners for their generous contributions of knowledge to the development of this important exhibition.”

The exhibition allows visitors to experience:

  • Historical and contemporary objects exploring Cheyenne culture and traditions;
  • Photographs and artifacts depicting the Arapaho people from 1900 to the present day;
  • Cheyenne and Arapaho style tipis;
  • Audio guides in four languages: Cheyenne, Arapaho, Spanish, and English;
  • A listening station for oral histories of Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants of massacre survivors;
  • A listening station for letters from soldiers who heroically refused to attack the peaceful camps of Cheyenne and Arapaho;
  • Historical documents from congressional and military investigations that took place after the massacre;
  • The creation of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service (NPS), and;
  • A look at the three tribal nations today and ongoing efforts to commemorate, educate and heal the massacre.

“This exhibit will include information about the lives of Cheyenne and Arapaho residents before the massacre, life today, and our efforts to commemorate the massacre,” explains Fred Mosqueda (Southern Arapaho). Each exhibit item has been reviewed and approved by tribal representatives. In accordance with proper protocol, this consultation ensures that the advert respects victims’ memories. At the request of the tribes, the exhibit will not include artifacts from the day or location of the massacre.

“We’ve had difficult times with History Colorado in the past. This show shows commitment and dedication,” said Otto Braided Hair, Jr. (Northern Cheyenne).

“The Sand Creek Massacre exhibit will demonstrate that people can humbly work together to remember and begin to heal from atrocities and betrayals like this,” said Shannon Voirol, Sand Creek Massacre Project Manager at History Colorado .

The Sand Creek Massacre: The Betrayal That Changed the People of Cheyenne and Arapaho Forever was made possible by significant grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

About the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in rural southeast Colorado was approved in the fall of 2000 in partnership with the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes and dedicated in April 2007. The site’s concession legislation directs the National Park Service to manage the cultural landscape and share the story of the massacre with the public. The park is open Thursday through Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Visit the website to plan your visit: www.nps.gov/sand.

“The Sand Creek Massacre evokes many emotions—loss, sorrow, pain, and survival—universal emotions that connect this tiny speck of southeastern Colorado to people and places far beyond Sand Creek,” said Janet Frederick, superintendent of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic site? site. “We believe the History Colorado exhibit will provide the public with an introduction and impetus to come to Eads and experience the site firsthand.”

About History Colorado
History Colorado is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has served more than 75,000 students and 500,000 people in Colorado each year. It’s a 143-year-old institution that operates 11 museums and historic sites, a free public research center, the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, and the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF), the nation’s largest preservation program of its kind. More than 70 % of SHF grants are awarded in rural areas of the state.

History Colorado’s mission is to create a brighter future for Colorado by creating miracles in our past. It serves as the state’s memory, preserving and sharing Colorado’s places, stories, and material culture through educational programs, historical preservation grants, collecting, outreach to Colorado communities, the History Colorado Center, and the Stephen H. Hart Research Center in Denver and ten other museums and historical attractions across the state. History Colorado is one of only six Smithsonian locations in Colorado. Visit HistoryColorado.org or call 303-HISTORY for more information.

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