Saturday, July 13, 2013

Why is there no compensation for Sand Creek after 149 years?

Though the verdicts of three separate Federal hearings were delivered about the Massacre, the Federal government has given no reparations to survivors or descendants.


That is the pattern for 149 years. The story in the Denver Post below – and of the US government – is to blame the descendants.

There is now the massacre site, created because David Halaas, then Director of the Colorado History Museum, had Lieutenant Silas Soule’s and Joseph Cramer’s letters, lost for a hundred years, come to him in a collection of papers.

Two months later, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell read these letters into the Congressional Record, and upon hearing them, the Senate voted, nearly unanimously, to create the Massacre site.


The question is: why haven’t reparations been paid to individuals these 149 years?


The Federal government says that individuals disagree over who should be paid. Having previously decided to do the right thing (as of 1865) and allocated the money (not yet…), perhaps they could assess the claims of each descendant on a person by person basis…Or perhaps they could set up an independent commission, relying on some indigenous people, to look into it.

Nothing will right the wrong. Paying money is a cheap way of apologizing. But it is a way…

The serious question is: given the United States’s acknowledged crimes and the treaties it has signed, does the Federal Government not have an obligation to look into and settle this issue?

149 years is a long, long time.

There is, sadly, an obvious explanation for why no individuals have yet received a compensation promised and reneged upon many times over.

The massacre at Sand Creek was not an “incident” or a "moment." It was the cold plan of Governor Evans to murder every “hostile” Indian, man, woman and child. In this, he was little different from many other United States politicians and commanders (Phillip Sheridan, for whom Sheridan Boulevard is named, initiated the phrase: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” - what he said was: “the only good Indians I have seen were dead.”)

And at the Camp Weld in Denver meeting, Evans refused to recognize any “friendly Indians” among those brought in, passing through “a storm” at great risk into hostile territory, by Major Edward Wynkoop, to make peace.

Chivington, who was at the Camp Weld meeting and created the deliberate misimpression that the Indians who went to Wynkoop at Fort Lyon would be safe, was following out Evans’s understanding.

Wynkoop spoke of Evans and Chivington as the “party of the Exterminators.” He had been a member, but left when one of his soldiers, against his command to shoot to kill, brought in One Eye and another warrior with a message that they wanted peace.

Wynkoop particularly admired the courage of the other warrior who had come to die because he did not want One Eye to come alone.

For One Eye expected death that day. He hoped the message, written by a “half-breed” as Wynkoop called him – the racism of settlers and soldiers – even those who did not identify with the “party of Exterminators,” is very, very thick – would get through. Signaling surrender, One Eye waved it above his head, hoped it might be taken from his fallen body.

One Eye would be murdered by John Chivington and his “soldiers” at Sand Creek.

The Civil War was both the great story of abolition, and a horrific story of ethnic cleansing. This second Civil War in the West lasted from 1862 in Minnesota through driving the Cheyennes and Arapahoes out of Colorado through the Sand Creek massacre, and on into the exterminating Indian Wars lasting until the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.

Sand Creek was part of this ethnic cleansing. John Evans led the “Exterminators” in Colorado.

The city of Denver and the mining camps, the source of the “soldiers,” were founded on - the whole process of settlement in the West was - a process of ethnic cleansing. At Sand Creek, this barbarism was exceptionally horrific – the indigenous people had tried so hard to make peace and federal officers like Silas Soule who were also racist (believed in attacking “hostile” Indians), refused to fire. They were repelled at the shooting of peaceful people and even more at the mutilations.

As Soule testified and the Joint Congressional Committee Hearing averred, these were all the “friendly” Indians. They could have done no more to make peace. Their slaughter meant that there was no peace to be made with the rapacious settlers, army and politicians. It was not only just revenge which the Indians who fought in defense of their lands- self-defense – sought. Evans and Chivington instigated the unnecessary 25 year “Indian Wars” (even with the conquest, both war and extermination on this scale were not necessary).

It is a difficult question what decent whites and blacks might have done to make the West not a place of ethnic cleansing (“defected” to the indigenous people and fought the aggressors is a good thought). But at a minimum, the scale of murder could have been abridged.

Ethnic cleansing is the story behind the failure to pay reparations to individuals to this day, 149 years later.

Ethnic cleansing is the story that cannot yet make the Denver Post, whose writer, Eric Gorski, though horrified about Sand Creek, cannot yet look at. Why is there a federally recognized slaughter, reparations promised in the Treaty of the Little Arkansas in 1865, one uniquely apologized for by the Federal government, for which the reparations have never been paid? (See Article 6 of the Treaty below)


Ethnic cleansing is the story of the creation of the reservation system – the system of concentration camps – which the Federal government imposed. A reservation complex made money off the starvation on the most inhospitable lands, sale of liquor to and imprisonment of the remaining indigenous people, who battled intergenerational trauma and hopelessness. For a long time, no indigenous person was allowed to leave the reservations (Americans without freedom of movement) and would have been threatened with being killed by racist whites, led by authorities, if and when they did (some courageously did).

This is the “pride” of the American army: that it conquered, with vastly superior arms and numbers, “Indian country.” If one wants to understand why the United States engages all over the world in counterproductive military enterprises toward nonwhite people, making ever larger numbers of enemies with invasions, bases, drones, secret armies, and torture than it had before, here is a seed…


Sand Creek Massacre descendants sue federal government for reparations

POSTED: 07/11/2013 01:05:41 PM MDT
UPDATED: 07/11/2013 04:30:05 PM MDT
By Eric Gorski
The Denver Post

Descendants of victims of the Sand Creek Massacre have filed a class-action lawsuit in Denver against the federal government, seeking reparations they claim were never paid for the slaughter of their Cheyenne and Arapaho ancestors 149 years ago.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court on behalf of four Oklahoma-based members of the Sand Creek Massacre Descendants Trust, is the most concrete step taken in decades by descendants long frustrated by politics, inaction and divisions in their ranks.
The complaint accuses the government and its agents of lawless behavior and hollow promises surrounding one of the darkest moments in Colorado history.

At dawn on Nov. 29, 1864, federal soldiers attacked peaceful Indians camped on the ice-encrusted banks of Sand Creek in what is now southeastern Colorado, slaughtering an estimated 163 — mostly women, children and the elderly — and desecrating their bodies.

The U.S. government in an 1865 treaty acknowledged wrongdoing and promised reparations of land and cash to survivors and relatives of victims.

The crux of the legal argument going forward will be whether the government ever paid that debt. Descendants claim it has not, while government officials have indicated they will argue otherwise.

"It's been a long road and we're ready to go," said Robert Simpson, a Methodist minister from Anadarko, Okla., and one of the plaintiffs. "We are focused on our ancestors. They are the ones who want us to do this. We will never forget them and what happened."

The trust says it has identified more than 15,000 descendants through decades of genealogical research and recruitment. A judge will decide whether the case meets requirements for class-action status.

Trust lawyers say either the federal government or the courts are responsible for establishing exactly who is a rightful descendant.

But the lawsuit does not seek to identify exactly how much is allegedly owed descendants — one of several open questions.
The lawsuit allows that it is very likely Congress appropriated some money in 1866 to reimburse bands of Cheyenne and Arapaho that suffered at Sand Creek. But it alleges that only a portion was paid, the amount was insufficient and it was given to tribes rather than individuals as spelled out in the Treaty of the Little Arkansas.

The Department of the Interior has since then controlled and held in trust reparations owed to the plaintiffs and their ancestors but has never accounted for it, the lawsuit claims.
Interior department spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said the department would not comment on pending litigation.
The reparations effort is the latest chapter in the struggle over the legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre, an important chapter in relations between white settlers and American Indians in the West.

At a time of high tension, about 700 soldiers under the command of Col. John Chivington attacked Indians led by "peace chiefs" who had been assured by the government they could safely camp there.

Witnesses described Indians on their knees begging for mercy and children clubbed in the head. When the killing was done, victims' body parts were taken as trophies and put on display in Denver.

Previous efforts at reparations have stalled. Bills introduced in Congress in 1949, 1953, 1957 and 1965 all failed.

The cause has been influenced by divisions among descendants, as well. Some Cheyenne tribal traditionalists dismiss the trust leaders who filed the lawsuit as interlopers with no legitimate claim.

The trust's campaign for reparations stalled for years but was revived with a recently expanded legal team. One of its new lawyers, David Askman of Denver, helped open a dialogue with Interior Department officials about the reparations claim before filing the lawsuit.

Askman has said the department contends reparations have been paid, with a department official describing a ledger from the 1960s that purports to show payments to individuals.

But Askman said Thursday the government has only produced documents showing payments to tribes, not individuals.

Read more: Sand Creek Massacre descendants sue federal government for reparations - The Denver Post


Here is Article 6 of the Treaty of Little Arkansas:


The United States being desirous to express its condemnation of, and, as far as may be, repudiate the gross and wanton out-rages perpetrated against certain bands of Cheyenne and Arrapahoe Indians, on the twenty-ninth day of November, A. D. 1864, at Sand Creek, in Colorado Territory, while the said Indians were at peace with the United States, and under its flag, whose protection they had by lawful authority been promised and induced to seek, and the Government being desirous to make some suitable reparation for the injuries then done, will grant three hundred and twenty acres of land by patent to each of the following-named chiefs of said bands, viz: Moke-ta-ve-to, or Black Kettle; Oh-tah-ha-ne-so-weel, or Seven Bulls; Alik-ke-home-ma, or Little Robe; Moke-tah-vo-ve-hoe, or Black White Man; and will in like manner grant to each other person of said bands made a widow, or who lost a parent upon that occasion, one hundred and sixty acres of land, the names of such persons to be ascertained under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior: Provided, That said grants shall be conditioned that all devises, grants, alienations, leases, and contracts relative to said lands, made or entered into during the period of fifty years from the date of such patents, shall be unlawful and void. Said lands shall be selected under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior within the limits of country hereby set apart as a reservation for the Indians parties to this treaty, and shall be free from assessment and taxation so long as they remain inalienable. The United States will also pay in United States securities, animals, goods, provisions, or such other useful articles as may, in the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior, be deemed best adapted to the respective wants and conditions of the persons named in the schedule hereto annexed, they being present and members of the bands who suffered at Sand Creek, upon the occasion aforesaid, the sums set opposite their names, respectively, as a compensation for property belonging to them, and then and there destroyed or taken from them by the United States troops aforesaid.”

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