A new exhibition—The Sand Creek Massacre: The Betrayal that Changed Cheyenne and Arapaho People Forever—opened at the History Colorado Center last week as part of National Native American Heritage Month. The exhibition recounts the deadliest day in Colorado history—Nov. 29, 1864—when U.S. troops brutally attacked a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho who were promised military protection.
To give an authentic representation of the atrocity’s impact, History Colorado is telling the history of that betrayal from the perspectives of Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal representatives, drawn from oral histories that have been passed down for generations.
Commissioners Jeff Baker and Nancy Jackson attended the Nov. 19 grand opening and spoke with members of the Northern Arapaho tribe, many of whom are direct descendants of the massacre.
“This exhibit is powerful, and it doesn’t mince words,” said Jackson. “This summer, when we signed a memorandum of understanding with the Northern Arapaho tribe, we promised we would help share the true and correct history of the tribe and that includes this unthinkable tragedy. We need to know the history so we can come together and heal together.”
Commissioner Baker was also moved by the exhibition. “This isn’t a re-telling of an historical event—it's the story of people. It’s the story of families and community. The resiliency of the Cheyenne and Arapaho people in the face such unthinkable tragedy is inspiring.”
The exhibition is the result of a ten-year partnership process which began in 2012 between History Colorado and the three tribal nations. This new project spotlights the living culture of the Cheyenne and Arapaho, two separate tribes with distinct histories that were bound together forever after the tragedy at Sand Creek.
Over the past year, Arapahoe County has also been strengthening its relationship with the Northern Arapaho Tribe and is working to increase awareness of and education about the Northern Arapaho culture and the concerns facing modern Native peoples.