h/t Joe Big Medicine and Clint Stanovsky
Claire Davis was murdered and other Arapahoe High School students shot for no reason, last December 13. The School is named for Arapahoes who are no longer in Colorado. The descendants are at Wind River Reservation in Wyoming as well as one shared by Shoshoni and Southern Arapahoe in Oklahoma.
Arapahoe high school students have a relation to Wind River (their nickname, the Warriors, is thus not simply a specter of genocide, with most users suffering from a founding amnesia, like that of the infamous Washington R...). During a bad winter many years ago, they raised clothing for students in Wyoming. The letter from Anna Sutterer on the January 10th school assembly from the Littleton Independent below mentions a little boy who got a new coat and gloves, and exclaimed "I'll never be cold again." (a story told by Phil Garhart, principal at Wyoming Indian High School). Perhaps dwelling in this story underestimates the distance still to be traveled. Nonetheless, healers from the Northern Arapahoe helped students deal with the shock and grief of the shooting.
Yet, as Clint Stanovsky suggests in a letter below, there is no awareness among Arapahoe students that the Sand Creek massacre,150 years ago this November 29th, murdered and mutilated Arapahoe and Cheyenne women and children as well as old men - Black Kettle had posted a huge American flag, with 38 stars, given to him by A.B. Greenwood, the Indian Commissioner in Washington, and a flag of truce over his tent and the "troops" betrayed them. That massacre drove the descendants to Montana, Wyoming and Oklahoma. That is why there are no Cheyennes and Arapahoes today in Colorado, no spiritual elders near Arapahoe High...
Our conversation yesterday reminds me that I need more practice articulating the scholarly weaving I do, beyond my books and profs and seminar cohort. Thanks for listening so receptively! I'll get better at it.
Attached is the Littleton Independent article we talked about yesterday -- by an Arapahoe High senior at the assembly on their first day back after the shootings. I'd love to hear your thoughts after you read it.
It seems that the link between Arapahoe High students --seeking healing from the shootings -- and Arapahoe descendants of Sand Creek -- seeking healing through observances of the 150th anniversary and the National Historical Monument -- is almost there, but has yet to be made...
Anyhow, I look forward to the next time our paths cross.
The Sand Creek massacre was done by the US army using three month recruits (100 daystars) from Denver and surroundings (regular soldiers led by Silas Soule and Joseph Cramer, ordered not to fire a shot, except for those with Major Scott Anthony, did not participate; Soule and Cramer's eloquent and painful letters about the Massacre awakened national outrage - see here). The massacre was central to the founding of Denver and of the University of Denver (a Methodist institution, Chivington, the perpetrator and a Methodist Presiding Elder, and John Evans, an instigator and the Territorial Governor, on its Board).
American gun culture - the culture of pretty unrestrained violence, including mass shootings of children as at Sandy Hook - grows out of the "old West" and its fierce racism (the "anti-Indian sublime," as Peter Silver names it in his Our Savage Neighbors - 2012). That racism was ingredient to similar massacres in the East from the Pequot Massacre of 1638...
After the shooting of 6 year olds at Sandy Hook in December, 2012, Devon Pena sent me an article linking it and Sand Creek. See here and here. Victims of a Founding Amnesia (ignorance cultivated by the elite), some commentators had said: no such murders of children had occurred previously in the United States. That misses especially nonwhite children. Sand Creek and Ludlow are both places, among many others, where women and children were massacred. To break the spell of violence, this connection needs powerfully to be brought to the fore.
Some months back, Tink Tinker told me a story of a Shawnee soldier, standing with his helmet off, with two other privates at the border of Iraq, just before the invasion. An officer berated them (guess having their helmets on would have deflected the poison gas the Bush administration was warning about) and pointed to the territory they would attack: "Gentlemen, that's Indian country." See here.
America's rampant killing of nonwhite people, even to this moment with drones, as well as its militarism grows out of and is partly a consequence of ethnic cleansing at home. This is the secret of the silence, the founding Amnesia, at Arapahoe High. To become a decent, nonaggressive, and effective regime in the 21st century, America needs to recognize and separate itself now from this history.
At Arapahoe High, students mourn the loss of a friend, fear the sudden and inexplicable danger of an American environment where gun-toters, like mushrooms after a sudden rain, come every few months to a nearby school or movie.
The students can begin to heal by knowing this story. We all can.
Assembly empowers Arapahoe High School students
For the photograph, see here.
Editor’s note: Anna Sutterer is a senior at Arapahoe High School and a student-journalist. She wrote this first-person account of the Jan. 10 assembly, which was closed to the public, for Colorado Community.
There was a time, I suppose, for the whole world to have its eyes on Arapahoe High School. For there to be questions, interviews, extra attention and special treatment and a general displaced feeling. But for the first time since Dec. 13, 2013, the entire Arapahoe student body, faculty and staff, assembled on Friday, Jan. 10, untormented by media vans and helicopters,reporters and cameras. It was a welcome change for the students and staff, simply coming home. At 7:25 a.m., more than 2,000 Warriors crowded onto the old Sitting Eagle Gymnasium bleachers as we had for the homecoming spirit assembly earlier this school year. But this time the proceedings had much more at stake. The walls of the gym were lined with teachers and staff, each entrance filled with the presence of a beloved educator-turned-family-member. The room felt like a giant hug. In this moment we were reminded of the trust and love between the students and staff at Arapahoe, evident especially now. Each teacher’s expression was reassuring, softening the idea of getting back to work and offering the promise of overwhelming grace for each student’s individual grieving periods.
Principal Natalie Pramenko began with a reminder. “There will be time for outside speakers, but today is about our students, our faculty, our new start to our new semester.”
The goal was healing and dipping our toes into the reality of resuming normality and work. No need at the moment for media to report or to tell us how to resume what we do well and have done well in the past: being a school of great integrity and excellence.
Several Arapaho tribe members from the Wind River Reservation graciously trekked to their sister school for the assembly. They served as a reminder of how strong and unique Arapahoe High School is in its history, an aspect I believe unifies our student body deeply.
Phil Garhart, principal at Wyoming Indian High School, relayed a story about the connection between the two schools. Many years ago, when the kids up at Wind River were struggling with the winter cold, a coat drive was set up at Arapahoe High School to aid them. The outpour delighted so many, and one little boy in particular, who looked at his teacher in his new coat and large gloves and said with a grin, “I’ll never be cold again.”
That’s the kind of spirit Arapahoe brings to each of its students. This special school culture seeps into all parts of our lives, becoming an integral part of our whole community. Once you are a part of the family, the tradition, and the support, you’re never cold again.
Tribal elder Mark Soldier Wolf, assisted by his daughter, Cassie Soldier Wolf, led the entire gymnasium in a cleansing ceremony special to the Arapaho tribe. Fragrant incense was lit and, using an eagle’s wing, the smoke was rhythmically wafted toward each of the four student sections, freshman, sophomore, junior, then senior over and over again.
Mark Soldier Wolf encouraged the audience with the poetic language of a weathered native. He had a way of telling an intricate, nostalgic tale that seemed to go beyond comprehension, but ending with wisdom and poignant messages that felt personal. He reminded me so much of my grandfather.
He explained to us the meaning of “warrior.” It’s an investigation of your land, people, and community — a warrior watches over. He reminded us to “never fear your enemy, the darkness. There is always a flashlight or a switch.” I couldn’t help but be empowered by this man, standing as a witness to the strength of a true warrior, one who made it through the harsh times of his poverty-stricken people and now emboldens us to do the same.
Empowerment was the theme for the rest of the speakers that morning. Our student body president, Megan Moore, clarified a popular statement used after the tragedy, that “this event will not define us.” She asserted that experiences do in fact make up who we are, but we get to choose how we will be defined. She implored us to remember our original Arapahoe identity that stood strong in the midst of the event. We are, and will be, a school known for great achievement, spirit, and love.
One of Claire’s friends, Erica Blair, acknowledged our loss of innocence in the tragedy. In response, however, she invited us to balance the incredible maturity we’ve had to take on with a childlike attitude toward the rest of our lives. I’m assuming she asks us to be a bit more like Claire in that way, an influence for others through our laughter and silliness.
It’s a beautiful conundrum we face now: each of us being both “Warrior Strong” and needing to lean on each other more than ever. I saw this at work throughout the crowd as boxes of tissues were passed about. Among the little ordinary movements of a large gathering, adjusted sitting position and hair fixes, I witnessed barely perceivable hand-holding and light squeezes to a neighbor’s shoulder.
Mr. Davis, a man whose overwhelming grace and forgiveness enamors all of Arapahoe’s students and community, challenged us to continue those little expressions of love each and every day. He assured us, saying, “You’ll never be called in this life to do more than you can do in this life. You are always enough.”
With the weight of historical victories and the encouragement of each other at our backs, it’s time for Arapahoe to get back to work. That does mean resuming studies and preparing for our personal futures, but also taking on Mr. Davis’s challenge — to consciously and deliberately love each day."