Legislature green lights Sand Creek memorial. But what will it look like? Where will it stand?

Author: John Tomasic - March 17, 2017 - Updated: March 17, 2017

Proposed Colorado Capitol Sand Creek Massacre memorial figure.
Proposed Colorado Capitol Sand Creek Massacre memorial figure.

Lawmakers passed a resolution green lighting a memorial to be placed on the Capitol grounds dedicated to the 1864 Sand Creek massacre, in which Colorado Volunteer soldiers killed as many as 163 Cheyenne and Arapaho, many of them women and children.

The memorial has been years in the making. The 12-member Capitol Building Advisory Committee signed off on the design in August.

The memorial will stand in the northwest area of the grounds and feature a traditional symbol of the massacre — bronze teepee poles fitted with an American flag and a white flag of truce, the same flags flown at the original Sand Creek camp. At the center of the site would sit a life-sized survivor, a mother, depicted in the immediate aftermath of the battle and sculpted by Harvey Pratt, a descendant of one of the victims. The site would also include a path of footprints referencing fleeing survivors and their ancestors.

A mock up of where the Sand Creek memorial will stand on the Capitol grounds.
A mock up of where the Sand Creek memorial will stand on the Capitol grounds.

“Have compassion in your hearts for us,” Henry Little Bird told the committee in August. “We have struggled in the past; we struggle in the present. But what happened (at Sand Creek), is not very far from me.”

That the massacre is still with us is a theme that sounded in the Capitol Monday when lawmakers were considering the resolution — the idea that, as they say, “The past is never dead. It’s not even the past.”

Senate Sponsor Larry Crowder, a Republican from Alamosa, introduced the resolution bill to his colleagues Monday morning.

“I think in this country what we do is we display our history, whether it’s favorable or unfavorable. And in my district I have three of the darkest days in our history, the Sand Creek Massacre, Camp Amache, and the Ludlow Massacre.”

Camp Amache was one of the Colorado interment camps where some 700 Japanese Americans were sent during World War II and the Ludlow Massacre was carried out by the state National Guard and private security guards against more than a thousand striking coal miners and their families who were set up in a tent colony.

“The reason we build displays to these events is to make sure they don’t happen again,” Crowder said. “I think this something that we as descendants of the era deserve.”

In the House, Thornton Democratic Rep. Joe Salazar introduced the resolution.

“There’s been an awful lot of discussion about what ‘historic trauma’ means,” he said. “People say, ‘Well, why can’t you just get over things that have happened a hundred and fifty years ago?’ How the American-Indian community describes it is that ‘Yes that massacre happened over a hundred and fifty years ago, but the atrocities are continuing every single day.’ So when we talk about the Sand Creek massacre, we can’t talk about it in a vacuum… We have to talk about it in a holistic sense, about what happened afterward.”

Remember Sand Creek is still working to raise awareness about the memorial project. The One Earth Future foundation has spearheaded fundraising for the effort.

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.

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