Earlier this month I wrote about sometimes feeling embarrassed to identify a Christian. But I am embarrassed not only because of things some Christian leaders as and do in the present but also because of what some have done in the past. The Sand Creek Massacre is one sad example.
|Established in April 2007|
The Bare Facts
There are background events that I don’t have the space to elucidate here, but here are the bare facts of the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred 155 years ago yesterday, on November 29, 1864.
The Third Colorado Cavalry commanded by Colonel John Chivington attacked a settlement of Cheyenne/Arapaho Indians at Sand Creek, about 175 miles southeast of Denver. At Chivington’s insistence, they murdered around 200 Native Americans, most of them women and children.
Prior to the massacre, Chivington reportedly said, “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! ... I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians. ... Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.”
This was all done with the approval of Colorado Governor John Evans, who was also the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Colorado.
The Embarrassing Facts
John Milton Chivington was born in 1821 into an Ohio farm family. In 1844 he was ordained as a Methodist minister, serving in that capacity in Illinois, Missouri, and then assisting in a Methodist missionary expedition to the Wyandot Indians in Kansas in 1853. (The church I now attend is in Wyandotte County.)
Gov. Evans was also a Methodist. He had joined with other Methodists in 1850 to found Northwestern University in Illinois. Then two years after becoming governor of Colorado in 1862, he and Chivington founded Colorado Seminary, which later became the University of Denver.
The Sand Creek Massacre has, indeed, been an embarrassment for the United Methodist Church, and five years ago they sought repentance for that national disgrace (see here).
There were two Cavalrymen with the Third Regiment, Silas Soule and Joseph Cramer, who refused to join in the massacre and testified against Chivington—and Soule was shot in the back and killed in April 1865 because of his testimony against Chivington.
It is also embarrassing to us Christians that in contrast to Evans and Chivington, Soule was described as a “healthy skeptic” rather than a religious believer.
Repenting of the Facts
This past Sunday Sarah Neher, the Director of Faith Formation and Youth Ministries at Rainbow Mennonite Church, preached on “Deconstructing Thanksgiving.” It was a bold, fitting sermon for the Sunday before the national holiday and for the last week of National American Indian Heritage Month (here is a link to more about that).
For Further Information
Here is the link to an article about the 21st annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run/Walk, currently in progress.
“Who is the Savage” is an excellent 14-minute video about Black Kettle, the “peace chief” head of the Sand Creek Native Americans in 1864.
And here is the link to a Rocky Mountain PBS documentary on the Sand Creek Massacre.