WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today completed a process begun over a decade earlier, signing the paperwork to formally create Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. The site, located in Kiowa County, Colorado memorializes the massacre of nearly 160 Cheyenne and Arapaho on November 29, 1864. Secretary Kempthorne was joined at the signing by Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado, National Park Service Director Mary Bomar, and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Carl Artman.
“It is with great reverence and honor that I have signed the papers to create the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, so that, as a country, we might never forget the events that took place along the banks of Sand Creek,” Secretary Kempthorne said. “We owe it to the men, women, and children who lost their lives that day, to their families, and to all Americans that we learn from this terrible tragedy.”
“The history of this great nation is not complete without an understanding and respect for the tragedies that affect our national consciousness,” NPS Director Mary A. Bomar said. "We hope that when people visit this important national park site, they will learn about and remember the Northern and Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho victims of Sand Creek."
At dawn on November 29, 1864, a force of some 700 volunteers in a Colorado regiment attacked a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians camped along Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. Prior to attack, detachments captured Indian pony herds and moved into battle position. Within moments, a barrage of small arms fire and howitzer bombardment was leveled against the Indians. Throughout the day, soldiers, many in small unorganized groups, continued to hunt and pursue Indians up Sand Creek and across the adjacent plains. By evening, about 160 Cheyenne and Arapaho lay dead – many of the victims women, children, and elderly.
Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, situated on over 12,000 acres in southeast Colorado, will recognize the significance of the massacre in American history, and its ongoing significance to the Northern and Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.
The site will be open to the public for the dedication ceremony on Saturday, April 28th, 2007, becoming the 391st National Park Unit and the first created under Secretary Kempthorne. In addition to being a formal government dedication, the event has deep, spiritual meaning for the descendents of the four sovereign Tribes whose ancestors were killed there.
“It is for exactly this purpose that the National Park Service was created,” Kempthorne said. “Our National Parks preserve and protect those pieces of America so uniquely a part of our history and our character, both the good and the bad. That is why President Bush has taken the extraordinary step of proposing up to $3 billion for our national parks as part of his National Park Centennial Initiative. The President’s Centennial Initiative will improve and expand national park conservation in preparation for the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, so that our national parks can continue to serve as eye-openers and awe-inspirers to another 100 years of visitors.”
Under President Bush’s Centennial Initiative the National Park Service will receive an additional $100 million a year for the next ten years for conservation, preservation, and visitor service projects at the 391 parks across the country. In addition, the President’s Centennial Challenge would make available up to $100 million annually in mandatory funds over 10 years to match at least $100 million in private contributions for signature projects and programs in national parks. This Challenge will leverage significant increases in the level of private donations to parks.
“By the Park Service’s 100th birthday, the President’s Centennial Initiative will have provided significant resources to restore and better protect the parks’ natural, cultural and historic resources, including our newest site at Sand Creek,” Kempthorne said.
Photos of the signing will be available at www.doi.gov.
For more information on the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site dedication ceremony, please contact Karen Breslin, Chief of Communications, NPS Intermountain Region, (303) 969-2707.