Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sand Creek, healing the wounds of a massacre

By Brenda Norrell
Human right editor
U.N. OBSERVER & International Report

SAND CREEK, Colo. – Before first light, the Longest Walk arrived at the site of the massacre of Cheyenne and Arapahoe children, women and men. Some of the walkers had seen the spirit women dancing and clapping during the women’s walk toward Sand Creek. Other walkers heard the spirit women singing with joy as they arrived.

For the Cheyenne Arapahoe on this journey, like Calvin Magpie, Jr., from Oklahoma, it was a time of profound sorrow, remembering the innumerable babies, children, women, men and elderly who were shot in cold blood and mutilated.

For others on the Longest Walk, like Jimbo Simmons, coordinator of the northern route, the assault at Sand Creek was one that has never ended, because now the National Park Service officials have positioned themselves in control and with authority at the site. It is now designated an historic site, with implications for tourism and exploitation.

In these killing fields, the Long Walkers walked up the hill overlooking the trees where Chief Black Kettle’s people camped. The trees are now bare and looked much like they would have on November 29, 1864, when the Colorado Militia carried out the murders of the innocents as the warriors were away from camp. Beyond Black Kettle’s camp site is a flat plain, without trees, where the people ran, where the bodies of the babies, women, children, men and elderly fell as the bullets pierced their bodies.

On the hilltop, the Long Walkers formed a circle, with the staff carriers facing east. Each Long Walker offered a prayer. Returning to the base of the hill, Long Walkers ate breakfast and reflected on this journey of mourning, sorrow and healing.

Rebecca Duncan, Wylacki from Round Valley, Calif., remembered the Cheyenne and Arapahoe massacred. “It was real hard because the spirits are alive.”

Duncan said two days earlier, she had an idea, to gather the women for a women’s walk toward Sand Creek. The women all joined her.

“We didn’t even get ten feet, it was like the women were clapping their hands and jumping around in a circle. The little kids seemed happy,” Duncan said of the massacred women and children.

The night before the memorial, a delegation from the Long Walk, including Cheyenne Arapahoe Calvin Magpie, spent the night at the massacre site. They prayed and introduced themselves to the spirits, before the other Long Walkers arrived.

Magpie said the healing begins this way, with respect, remembrance and prayers.

Gail Ridgely, Northern Arapahoe from Wyoming and Sand Creek descendant, visited the Long Walkers here. Ridgely said it was an honor to be among the Long Walkers and the staffs they carry.

Before the memorial at the place of massacre, the Long Walkers watched the documentary, “The Sand Creek Massacre,” produced by Don Vasicek. Long Walkers viewed the film while camped by a reservoir earlier this week, and learned of the history of the massacre. Long Walkers said the film reveals the facts that they did not learn in school, details that do not exist in history books, including the shooting of young children.

Then, on Saturday, April 5, Long Walkers rose at 3 a.m. and traveled to the massacre site. They walked at first light the final half mile up the hill, overlooking the massacre site at Sand Creek.

On Saturday evening and Sunday morning, Marty Chase Alone, Oglala, representing the Red Cloud people and a Tiospaye of the Big Road Band, led ceremonies at the Sand Creek Massacre site to release the spirits and wipe the tears.

Chase Alone's relatives were descendants of White Antelope and Yellow Wolf, massacred at Sand Creek.

Long Walkers said they could hear and feel the unrest and agony when they first arrived. After the ceremonies, walkers said there was a feeling of peace and calm here. Chase Alone said the ceremonies were held to let the ancestors know that they could go on now.

During presentations to the Longest Walk Northern Route, Chase Alone also presented the Longest Walk with a staff representing Native American Prisoners to carry to Washington in their struggle to ensure the ceremonial rights for inmates.

Listen to Marty Chase Alone and others --- from Sand Creek at Earthcycles:
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