Sand Creek Massacre Site Will Expand, Feds Say

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Troops overran a sleepy Native American encampment along Sand Creek, killing more than 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho, mostly women, children and the elderly.

EADS, Colo. – Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Wednesday announced the expansion of a National Park Service historic site dedicated to the massacred by American troops more than 200 Native Americans in what is now southeastern Colorado.

Haaland, the first Native American to head a U.S. Cabinet agency, made the announcement during a solemn ceremony at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site about 272 miles southeast of Denver to honor the dead, survivors and their descendants.

> The video above is an earlier story of the massacre.

The move marked the latest move by Haaland to act on issues important to Native Americans in his role as Secretary of the Interior.

RELATED: Hundreds of Arapaho and Cheyenne Natives were murdered along Sand Creek in Colorado 157 years ago on Monday

Haaland’s selection to head the federal agency that has swayed the country’s tribes for nearly two centuries was hailed as historic by Democrats and tribal groups who said it meant Indigenous peoples — who lived in North America before the United States was established — would see for the first time a Native American leading the powerful department where decisions about relations with the nearly 600 federally recognized tribes are manufactured.

Earlier this year, the agency released a first-of-its-kind report on Native American boarding schools that the US government has supported to strip indigenous peoples of their cultures and identities. She has also officially declared “squaw” a pejorative term and took steps to remove it from federal government use and to replace other derogatory place names.

The expansion of the Sand Creek Massacre site, approximately 170 miles (272 kilometers) southeast of Denver, will provide more opportunities for visitors to learn about the Cheyenne and Arapaho Massacre of 1864, for the mostly women and children, Haaland said on Wednesday. She said it was the “solemn responsibility” of her ministry to “tell the story of our nation”.

“The events that unfolded here forever changed the course of the Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho and Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes,” she said. “We will never forget the hundreds of lives that were brutally taken here – men, women and children murdered in an unprovoked attack. Stories like the Sand Creek Massacre are not easy to tell, but it is my duty – our duty – to ensure that they are told. This story is part of the history of America.”

RELATED: When They Didn’t See an In-Depth History Lesson on the Sand Creek Massacre, These Colorado Teachers Created One

The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site near Eads, Colorado preserves the haunting landscape of the November 29, 1864 attack by a United States Volunteer Cavalry regiment. Troops overran a sleepy Native American encampment along Sand Creek, killing more than 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho, mostly women, children and the elderly.

The expedition was ostensibly to retaliate against Native American raids on white settlers. Soldiers brought body parts back to Denver to celebrate. But some commanders refused to attack, saying Native American leaders who thought they had made peace with the American commander at nearby Fort Lyon had tried to wave white flags. Congress condemned the leader, Colonel John M. Chivington, for an unprovoked massacre.

RELATED: Sand Creek Massacre Statue Will Replace Toppled Civil War Statue At State Capitol

Sand Creek was established as a National Park Service Historic Site in 2007. The service has worked with the Northern Cheyenne of Montana, the Northern Arapaho of Wyoming, and the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes of Oklahoma.

The new expansion will also preserve what Haaland called one of the largest intact shortgrass prairie ecosystems in the national park system.

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