Sand Creek Massacre Healing

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On June 20, 2014, Bishop Elaine Stanovsky (of the United Methodist Church) and 650 members of the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference made a pilgrimage to the site of the Sand Creek Massacre, traveling three hours by bus to the hot, barren place near Eads, Colo., which was dedicated in 2007 as a national historic landmark. The bishops, guest bishops and Native Americans from the area—including descendants of those who were attacked that day in 1864—recalled the incidents leading up to the Nov. 29, 1864, slaughter and reflected on the impact on Native people and others. Stanovsky and other clergy marked visitors on their foreheads with ashes as a symbol of atonement. Henrietta Mann, founder of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College in Oklahoma, and a great-granddaughter of one of the survivors of the 1864 battle, told the United Methodist guests about her ancestors in a tribute to those ancestors.

The journey, which marked the 150th anniversary of the Massacre in 1864, was an effort to educate United Methodist about the church's involvement in the historic tragedy and to begin healing relationships with Cheyenne and Arapaho people.

During the episcopal address, Bishop Stanovsky gave a detailed accounting of events leading up to the Sand Creek Massacre.  She also provided suggestions to United Methodists on how respond today to other historical injustices against indigenous peoples in the United States. The pilgrimage was part of the denominational commitment of "Healing Relationships with Indigenous Persons" launched at the General Conference in 2012.

Through tears of healing, Cheyenne and Arapaho people accepted the repentance and forgave the Methodists (standing in the gap for pastor Chivington and pastor/governor Evans who executed the massacre).  This was a huge milestone and breakthrough for Colorado as The Church repented for the atrocitiy.

In anoither pivitol act of repentance and healing, on Wednesday,  December 3, 2014, as the conclusion to the 16th annual Sand Creek Massacre Healing Run, Governor Hickenlooper stood on the west steps of the Capitol and apologized for the government sanctioned massacre in 1864.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, center right, greets Northern Cheyenne tribal leader Otto Braidedhair, after speaking to members and supporters of the Arapaho and
Gov. John Hickenlooper, center right, greets Northern Cheyenne tribal leader Otto Braidedhair, after speaking to members and supporters of the Arapaho and Cheyenne Native American tribes at a gathering marking the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, on the steps of the state Capitol in Denver, Wednesday Dec. 3, 2014. (Brennan Linsley, Associated Press)

Tears fell and heads bowed Wednesday as Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe members sat on the steps of the Capitol, listening as Gov. John Hickenlooper apologized for the atrocities of the Sand Creek Massacre.

On Nov. 29, 1864, the Colorado Territorial militia invaded a Cheyenne and Arapaho village on the Eastern Plains, killing more than 160 people — most of them women and children.

"We should not be afraid to criticize and condemn that which is inexcusable. ... On behalf of the state of Colorado, I want to apologize," Hickenlooper said to tribe members at the 150th anniversary event. "We will not run from this history."

According to the governor's office, Hickenlooper is the first Colorado governor to offer an apology for the massacre.

These two monumental events of repentance from the church and our government accompanied by forgiveness from the Cheyennes and Araphoes, provide a foundation of healing for our state.  The events serve to break off the spirit of death and murder that have haunted our state manifesting in other massacres such as the Columbine shootings and the Aurora theater shootings.   As believers in Jesus Christ, we praise God that the violation of our people is being addressed so that relationships can be restored which will bring healing to our state.