Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ned Blackhawk on the Sand Creek Massacre in the Times; a racist botch in the Denver Post


     Ned Blackhawk is a fine historian who teaches at Yale and served on the Committee that created the Northwestern Report on Evans and Sand Creek hereHis op-ed piece in the New York Times yesterday eloquently conveys an account of the massacre and John Evans culpability largely now shared by historians who have studied the matter (h/t Paula Bard, Terence Ball, Peter Minowitz).  The University of Denver Report here introduces new comparative evidence, for instance about the conduct of Doty, the Utah Governor and superintendent of Indian Affairs and brings out the conclusions from the evidence more sharply but as he suggests, there is no basic disagreement.  The op-ed is worth reading carefully, as are the Reports.

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     Blackhawk is right to name the massacres of indigenous people at Bear River in Idaho and among the Navajo central to the Civil War - I have named this a second Civil War in the West, a genocidal one, for the past two years on this blog. 

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      In addition, Adolf Hitler learned from the forced march of the Navajo to Bosque Redondo - see here and here - and the camps for Native Americans are part of the inspiration and even the rhetoric of the concentration camps - Hitler named them "reservations" and spoke of the Soviet citizens he ultimately was defeated by as "redskins" - as well as a source, for David Ben Gurion and successors, of the continuing illegal "transfer" of Palestinians, displaced from their own land by conquest as "permanent residents" in (greater) Israel.

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     Blackhawk's brief article also coud not include the genocide which had accompanied Pilgrim settlement and displaced indigenous people from the founding of Harvard in 1636 - for instance, the Pequot Massacre in 1638 slaughtered some 500 men, women and children and enabled Harvard to receive 200 acres of land - on the East Coast and some of what is now the Midwest.  But as he emphasizes, the Civil War, pivoting around Sand Creek, provoked a general indigenous war of self-defense and enabled the mobilization/expansion of Blue Coats who, despite losses to Red Cloud and Sitting Bull, conquered and murdered their way across the country, breaking Treaty after Treaty, until they achieved "Manifest Destiny" (a horrific name) in 1876.

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    From then on, the US government, having stolen indian land, killed large numbers of indigenous people, and cordoned the remainder on inarable soil, needed to make no more treaties...

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     Below Blackhawk's article is a brief account supposedly of the schedule of the Spiritual Healing run now occurring from the Denver Post.  But the photograph accompanying the schedule is the racist plaque to the "Sand Creek battle," still at the National Sand Creek Massacre Historical Site but precisely what three federal commissions declared in 1865 and every serious historian, given the evidence, now declares to be false.  John Chivington and John Evans "stand by Sand Creek," in Chivington's words, but are revealed as genocidal killers or as Blackhawk says, ethnic cleansers.

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       The brief Post article suggests that only indigenous people are to run, but actually the march is supported vitally by Bishop Elaine Stanovsky and the Methodist Church, many of whose members will participate, the Governor's Commission on the Sand Creek Massacre, the State Legislature and by the University of Denver which has issued the Report and from which many students and faculty will run.  It is also a healing run, not as the last paragraph suggests, a "health run."

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The article refers to a Colorado Territory Militia.  Actually, it was a Federal Third Regiment, the "hundred dayzers," recruited at the instigation of Governor John Evans, which did the slaughter.  Had it been a Colorado militia, the US army would not have apologized for the Massacre immediately afterwards (in the Treaty of Fort Arkansas in 1865, for example) nor would there be a National Monument, created by act of Congress, to the Massacre.  


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The reason for all this participation in the run and for a new sense of many leaders in mainstream America is that a decent society in the 21st century needs to acknowledge this history and do what it can to repair it.   


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     The writer of this article is mercifully not listed (he or she would achieve some infamy), but that the editors let it pass is a sign of how strong Founding Amnesia is, how weak the grasp of the difference between "exterminating" American racism toward Cheyennes and Arapahos (the word of choice of Evans, Chivington and other contemporary Denverites was "exterminate them") and a truth-telling and honorable society, one that recognizes each of its citizens and tells the story (does not apologize for mass murder) is. 


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   Educationally speaking, we have turned a corner, but have yet a long way to journey...


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New York Times Op-ed

Remember the Sand Creek Massacre


Photo
CreditChristine Marie Larsen

NEW HAVEN — MANY people think of the Civil War and America’s Indian wars as distinct subjects, one following the other. But those who study the Sand Creek Massacre know different.
On Nov. 29, 1864, as Union armies fought through Virginia and Georgia, Col. John Chivington led some 700 cavalry troops in an unprovoked attack on peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho villagers at Sand Creek in Colorado. They murdered nearly 200 women, children and older men.
Sand Creek was one of many assaults on American Indians during the war, from Patrick Edward Connor’s massacre of Shoshone villagers along the Idaho-Utah border at Bear River on Jan. 29, 1863, to the forced removal and incarceration of thousands of Navajo people in 1864 known as the Long Walk.
In terms of sheer horror, few events matched Sand Creek. Pregnant women were murdered and scalped, genitalia were paraded as trophies, and scores of wanton acts of violence characterize the accounts of the few Army officers who dared to report them. Among them was Capt. Silas Soule, who had been with Black Kettle and Cheyenne leaders at the September peace negotiations with Gov. John Evans of Colorado, the region’s superintendent of Indians affairs (as well as a founder of both the University of Denver and Northwestern University). Soule publicly exposed Chivington’s actions and, in retribution, was later murdered in Denver.
After news of the massacre spread, Evans and Chivington were forced to resign from their appointments. But neither faced criminal charges, and the government refused to compensate the victims or their families in any way. Indeed, Sand Creek was just one part of a campaign to take the Cheyenne’s once vast land holdings across the region. A territory that had hardly any white communities in 1850 had, by 1870, lost many Indians, who were pushed violently off the Great Plains by white settlers and the federal government.
These and other campaigns amounted to what is today called ethnic cleansing: an attempted eradication and dispossession of an entire indigenous population. Many scholars suggest that such violence conforms to other 20th-century categories of analysis, like settler colonial genocide and crimes against humanity.
Sand Creek, Bear River and the Long Walk remain important parts of the Civil War and of American history. But in our popular narrative, the Civil War obscures such campaigns against American Indians. In fact, the war made such violence possible: The paltry Union Army of 1858, before its wartime expansion, could not have attacked, let alone removed, the fortified Navajo communities in the Four Corners, while Southern secession gave a powerful impetus to expand American territory westward. Territorial leaders like Evans were given more resources and power to negotiate with, and fight against, powerful Western tribes like the Shoshone, Cheyenne, Lakota and Comanche. The violence of this time was fueled partly by the lust for power by civilian and military leaders desperate to obtain glory and wartime recognition.
Expansion continued after the war, powered by a revived American economy but also by a new spirit of national purpose, a sense that America, having suffered in the war, now had the right to conquer more peoples and territories.
The United States has yet to fully recognize the violent destruction wrought against indigenous peoples by the Civil War and the Union Army. Connor and Evans have cities, monuments and plaques in their honor, as well as two universities and even Colorado’s Mount Evans, home to the highest paved road in North America.
Saturday’s 150th anniversary will be commemorated many ways: The National Park Service’s Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site, the descendant Cheyenne and Arapaho communities, other Native American community members and their non-Native supporters will commemorate the massacre. An annual memorial run will trace the route of Chivington’s troops from Sand Creek to Denver, where an evening vigil will be held Dec. 2.
The University of Denver and Northwestern are also reckoning with this legacy, creating committees that have recognized Evans’s culpability. Like many academic institutions, both are deliberating how to expand Native American studies and student service programs. Yet the near-absence of Native American faculty members, administrators and courses reflects their continued failure to take more than partial steps.
While the government has made efforts to recognize individual atrocities, it has a long way to go toward recognizing how deeply the decades-long campaign of eradication ran, let alone recognizing how, in the face of such violence, Native American nations and their cultures have survived. Few Americans know of the violence of this time, let alone the subsequent violation of Indian treaties, of reservation boundaries and of Indian families by government actions, including the half-century of forced removal of Indian children to boarding schools.
One symbolic but necessary first step would be a National Day of Indigenous Remembrance and Survival, perhaps on Nov. 29, the anniversary of Sand Creek. Another would be commemorative memorials, not only in Denver and Evanston but in Washington, too. We commemorate “discovery” and “expansion” with Columbus Day and the Gateway arch, but nowhere is there national recognition of the people who suffered from those “achievements” — and have survived amid continuing cycles of colonialism.
Correction: November 27, 2014
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the American Indian leader Black Kettle was killed in the Sand Creek Massacre. He died at the Battle of Washita in Oklahoma in 1868. 
Ned Blackhawk, a professor of history and American studies at Yale and the coordinator of the Yale Group for the Study of Native America, is the author of “Violence Over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West.”
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DENVER AND THE WEST
Sand Creek Massacre: 150th anniversary events begin Saturday
The Denver Post
POSTED:   11/28/2014 01:53:39 PM MST

 Sand Creek Massacre monument marker
A monument marker sits on an overlook that greets visitors of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic site in Kiowa County near Eads, November 28th. 2012. (Andy Cross, Denver Post file photo)
Beginning early Saturday, a series of events will mark the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.
Nearly 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho — most of them women and children — were killed in the massacre Nov. 29, 1864, by the Colorado Territory militia.
Beginning at dawn Saturday, descendents of the survivors will gather on Monument Hill at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in southeastern Colorado for a private ceremony. The hill will be closed to the public until 1 p.m., but public events and lectures will be held at the visitors' contact station and the lower parking lot.
The national historic site is 23 miles east of Eads.
At 1 p.m., Monument Hill will reopen to the public.
According to a news release, visitors can explore the park on their own or join speakers in the picnic area for a brief discussion on the importance of the day and background for establishing the park.
Later, at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m, park staffers will be at the Crow Luther Cultural Events Center in Eads for a preview of two new film documentaries on the massacre.
The films will be free to the public.
The 15th annual Healing Run will begin at 7 a.m. Sunday at the historic site. The runners are to reach Denver in time for a candlelight vigil at the Denver Art Museum at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The Health Run will conclude with a ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday on the west steps of the Capitol.






















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