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The Sand Creek Massacre
April 28, 2007 11:56 PM   Subscribe

On November 29, 1864, John Chivington led the Colorado Volunteers in a dawn attack in which at least 150 Cheyenne men, women and children were slaughtered (many of their corpses grotesquely mutilated), bringing a new wave of Indian-white conflict to Colorado's high plains along the Santa Fe Trail. The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site was officially dedicated today. See photos of some of the people involved, read some contemporary propaganda concerning the event, as well as actual testimony from witnesses and perpetrators.
posted by flapjax at midnite (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I haven't paid attention to the Sand Creek Massacre site/story in some time for various reasons, but I didn't even know they were thinking about actually making this an official site, whatever (or whomever) that implicates. Thanks for posting this!
posted by sleepy pete at 12:30 AM on April 29, 2007


god Bless america
posted by matt_od at 1:16 AM on April 29, 2007


god Bless america
What is so striking to most readers about matt_od's comment, what really gives it such devastating effect, is his innovative use of sarcasm to transform a phrase usually uttered in earnest, accompanied with the most patriotic of feelings, indeed the very title of a song often played in celebration of American history, into a scathing indictment of the violence perpetrated by the US military against the indigeneous peoples of North America. The righteousness of his message seems to have been transmitted through each keystroke so that the letters threaten to burn through our screens and into our respctive conciousnesses, till we cannot help but reflect on whether any of us should, in light of such a shameful history, wish that "God bless[es] America." Bravo, sir!

I *heart* facile statements about what an evil nation we are.
posted by banishedimmortal at 2:07 AM on April 29, 2007 [8 favorites]


Long overdue.

Also of interest is Jonathan Lear's new book, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation, reviewed ably and favorably by Charles Taylor in the last NYRB. Lear talks a bit about the Sand Creek massacre, but his focus is mainly on the Crow Tribe of south central Montana, who avoided genocide by pursuing an explicitly collaborative approach to relations with the US government. Well worth a read.
posted by felix betachat at 2:11 AM on April 29, 2007


Reading the news op-eds and testimony, it seems that there was conflicting news about whether the Indian camp was hostile, how the effete eastern elite is stupid and hypocritical etc. etc. I guess Indians were the turrurists of the time.
posted by Firas at 2:13 AM on April 29, 2007


Nice post. The massacre quickly became a national source of shame, even in the west. Coloradans dealt with the embarrassment by scapegoating Chivington, as if he had slaughtered those women and children all by his lonesome. He spent the rest of his life trying to justify what happened that day, talking at county fairs and the like.
posted by LarryC at 4:58 AM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


"facile statements about what an evil nation we are."

Or is that perhaps simply what you've read into his comment? Perhaps he means to say the US is an "evil nation", but this simplistic interpretation might speak more to your own preconceptions than to what he was trying to say. Maybe the conclusion you've arrived at is too, shall we say, black and white? Maybe his comment reflects a kind of ambivalence or disdain about the validity of any nation invoking God's blessing, given the fact that such atrocities are part and parcel of many a nation's history. Perhaps it's a commentary about how, as you've put it, the phrase is "usually uttered in earnest, accompanied with the most patriotic of feelings", and it's that very earnestness that could use a little tempering, a little analysis. A hard look at the history of the nation. The country, after all, is built upon the bones and crushed will of the original inhabitants.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:06 AM on April 29, 2007


No father should live long enough to see his son killed in front of him. The testimony of Indian agent/translator John Smith about the murder at Sand Creek of his "half-breed" son Jack is devastating.

Ethnic cleansing, American style. As the Firesign Theater sardonically put it:

The broken bones
The broken homes
The total degradation of
The Little Guy

posted by rdone at 5:44 AM on April 29, 2007


Perhaps it's a commentary about how, as you've put it, the phrase is "usually uttered in earnest, accompanied with the most patriotic of feelings", and it's that very earnestness that could use a little tempering, a little analysis.

Oh, come on. The bitter, world-weary "God bless America" is not a commentary. It's just a lame shibboleth of smug leftists every bit as mindless as the people shouting "love it or leave it" to anti-war protestors.

As the linked CNN article mentions, this was not some universally supported, official act of the people and government of the United States. "The attack was recognized almost immediately as criminal. Congress condemned it and President Lincoln fired territorial Gov. John Evans." Besides, it wasn't even the regular US military that carried out the massacre, but more of a paramilitary posse.

I just think that half-assed comments blanket criticisms of "America" because of events like these, whether they happened 150 year ago or yesterday, are lazy and counterproductive to the cause of thoughtful liberals. The only reason Bush has any shred of support left is because people like matt_od help bring the level of discourse down to two sides shouting "God Bless America!" at each other, one earnestly and one sarcastically, both equally vapid.

The country, after all, is built upon the bones and crushed will of the original inhabitants.

As opposed to, say, which country exactly?
posted by banishedimmortal at 6:52 AM on April 29, 2007


flapjax and banished, naturally you are both, simultaneously right and wrong. I think it is better to say, God Bless the planet or God save Earth from the humans or something else along those lines. Whether you believe in god or not, perhaps you can agree we are, indeed, in it together and, at the moment, not doing a very good job things.
posted by chance at 7:24 AM on April 29, 2007


Moving post flapjax. One battle in a holocaust, a genocide. This particular battle took place duing the time of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Haunting photographs you linked on the excellent NPS site. It also has a place to look up anyone who might have fought in the Civil War.

"By conservative estimates, the population of the United states prior to European contact was greater than 12 million. Four centuries later, the count was reduced by 95% to 237 thousand."

"In 1493, when Columbus returned to the Hispaniola, he quickly implemented policies of slavery and mass extermination of the Taino population of the Caribbean. Within three years, five million were dead. Las Casas, the primary historian of the Columbian era, writes of many accounts of the horrors that the Spanish colonists inflicted upon the indigenous population: hanging them en mass, hacking their children into pieces to be used as dog feed, and other horrid cruelties. The works of Las Casas are often omitted from popular American history books and courses because Columbus is considered a hero by many, even today."

Native American Tribes Population Rankings. Indigenous peoples and Native Americans in the United States at Wikipedia.
posted by nickyskye at 7:49 AM on April 29, 2007


You know, instead of petty arguments over "God bless America," you could, you know, mention David Nichols.

Loyal solider, good citizen, instrumental in getting the University of Colorado put in Boulder instead of Leadville.

At the same time he was an active participant at Sand Creek.

In the late 1980s the university took his name off one of the dorms and renamed it "Cheyenne-Arapaho" (which we students abbreviated to Chey-Ho). Here's Patricia Limerick's 150+ page report on Nichols at Sand Creek. Happy reading.
posted by dw at 7:54 AM on April 29, 2007


banishedimmortal: people have a tendency to get upset about things like the mass murder of children, so sarcasm slips out. But what a pointless axe to grind, apologizing for america's sordid history. you and pastabagel (i'm sure he'll show up soon to deny population numbers and defend the blood stained flag) must wake to some sour mornings with so many events to gloss over, so many subjects to change, instead of swallowing the hard reality of your country's past.

Qui excuse, s'accuse.
posted by sarcasman at 8:01 AM on April 29, 2007


people have a tendency to get upset about things like the mass murder of children

This comment really put me in my place, but I think, for more effect, you could have rephrased this as: "People have a tendancy to get a teensy-weensy bit upset about things like, um, oh, I don't know...*pause for dramatic effect/squint/glare*...THE MASS MURDER OF CHILDREN."

I really hate statements made in anger about THE MASS MURDER OF CHILDREN because, no matter how unreasonable, they are invulnerable to criticism.

sarcasm slips out

Right, posting the three words "God Bless America" after a post about the Sand Creek Massacre is "sarcasm slipping out." Try sarcasm "kicking in" as in the kicking of a knee after it's been hit with a small hammer.

what a pointless axe to grind, apologizing for america's sordid history

Please, sarcasman, show me one place where I did anything remotely approaching "apologizing for America's sordid history" or "glossing over" anything or "changing the subject" about anything or refusing to "swallow the hard reality of my country's past"? I wrote a post criticizing mindless knee-jerk condemnation of "America" because it cheapens the dialogue about the direction this country is going in.

you and pastabagel (i'm sure he'll show up soon to deny population numbers and defend the blood stained flag) must wake to some sour mornings with so many events to gloss over, so many subjects to change, instead of swallowing the hard reality of your country's past

No, I wake to some sour mornings because pastabagel snores

Qui excuse, s'accuse

I think ending an argument with a pithy French expression is normally pretty pompous, but it's appropriate in this case because the closest English translation is "I love arguing about the sordid history of America because its so obvious to me who was good and who was bad and some people just don't get it but no matter what anyone says I know I'm right and it just makes me feel so god damned proud of myself I could scream!"
posted by banishedimmortal at 10:11 AM on April 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is so striking to most readers about matt_od's comment, what really gives it such devastating effect, is his innovative use of sarcasm to transform a phrase usually uttered in earnest, accompanied with the most patriotic of feelings, indeed the very title of a song often played in celebration of American history, into a scathing indictment of the violence perpetrated by the US military against the indigeneous peoples of North America. The righteousness of his message seems to have been transmitted through each keystroke so that the letters threaten to burn through our screens and into our respctive conciousnesses, till we cannot help but reflect on whether any of us should, in light of such a shameful history, wish that "God bless[es] America." Bravo, sir!

I *heart* facile statements about what an evil nation we are.


Now that song is ruined for me. I'll never hear it again without thinking of all the broken land treaties that were disguised as self-righteous moral conquest, sung in honor of the lack thereof.
posted by Brian B. at 10:21 AM on April 29, 2007


Good post. Thanks, flapjax.
posted by homunculus at 10:26 AM on April 29, 2007


Great post. (Mostly lame thread.)
posted by salvia at 11:25 PM on April 29, 2007


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