Written by Patty Nyberg, Associated Press / Report to America
Months after protesters demolished a statue of a US soldier who participated in the massacre of Native Americans, tribesmen and descendants of those who survived the Civil War-era attack urged Colorado lawmakers Thursday to replace it with a photo of an indigenous woman. In the Capitol.
The new statue will replace the one depicting a Union Army soldier who helped carry out the Sand Creek massacre of 230 people from Cheyenne and Arapahoe in 1864, one of the worst mass murders in US history. He was overthrown during the summer amid the national account of racial injustice and a movement to remove symbols from public spaces linked to military atrocities against the Coloreds, usually the Confederacy.
The proposed new bronze statue depicts a young woman sitting on a white flag, wearing the original Cheyenne dress, with her left arm extended. Her braids were severed and her finger joint in her left hand were signs of mourning.
Ryan Ortiz of the northern Arapahu tribe has testified in favor of the new statue of the Capital Development Committee. He said that the massacre was the root of the historical trauma of the Arapaho and Xi’an tribes and that the statue would be an opportunity to correct past mistakes.
“It is not so much in history that we have the opportunity to atone for the mistakes of our ancestors,” Ortiz said.
Otto Pride Hair, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe and descendant of a Sand Creek survivor, has worked on the education surrounding the massacre for the past 20 years. Share the details conveyed by his grandfather.
“He was part of the recovery team to come down and search for survivors, and he couldn’t get close to the village because the whole valley was permeating the cremated bodies,” said Braided Hair. This is what the soldiers did and the soldier represents for us. “
On November 29, 1864, Colonel John Chiffington led some 700 American volunteer soldiers into a village of about 500 campgrounds along the shores of Big Sandy Creek. Chifington ordered his men to attack and kill most of the women, children, and elderly people at the camp. The village believed that they were under the protection of the US Army, that people even approached the unit with white flags.
Over the next two days, the forces shot and followed women and children fleeing an area of 35 square miles (90 square kilometers). Chifington faced no trial for his actions.
The Sand Creek Massacre site is located remote in rural southeast Colorado and honors the victims.
“We must be your neighbors. We must live among you. We must be living among you,” Ortiz told the committee, “But we were forced out of the area.”
State Rep. Susan Lountaine, a Democrat and chair of the Capitol Advisory Committee that reviews art, memorials and architectural designs, said she backed the statue after hearing it from tribesmen.
“We are in a moment of social reckoning, and as a state we have our sins to atone for them,” she said.
Lontaine, whose committee approved the replacement in November, said the placement of the statue was important to the tribes because after the massacre, the soldiers returned to Denver, displaying the remains of the victims as mementos, and finishing their parade at the steps of the Colorado Capitol.
“We are also dealing with the indigenous people of our country who have suffered from many broken promises, and I feel that the committee’s approval is a step toward the promise of fulfillment and placing their monument on Capitol grounds,” said Lonten.
The Capital Development Committee, responsible for reviewing funding requests for projects, will discuss the new system and make a decision over the next few weeks.
Nieberg is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a not-for-profit national service program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report classified issues.