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November 29, 1864: Sand Creek Massacre

 

 

 

On Novmber 29, 1864, in a stain on American honor, 700 men of the 1st Colorado Cavalry, 3rd Colorado Cavalry and a company of the 1st New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry, under the command of Colonel John M. Chivington, a Methodist minister turned soldier, attacked and slaughtered an encampment of peaceful Indians.  I cannot improve on the report of this massacre issued by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War on January 10, 1865:

 

The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War submit the following report:

In the summer of 1864 Governor Evans, of Colorado Territory, as acting superintendent of Indian affairs, sent notice to the various bands and tribes of Indians within his jurisdiction that such as desired to be considered friendly to the whites should at once repair to the nearest military post in order to be protected from the soldiers who were to take the field against the hostile Indians.

About the close of the summer, some Cheyenne Indians, in the neighborhood of the Smoke Hills, sent word to Major Wynkoop, the commandant of the post of Fort Lyon, that they had in their possession, and were willing to deliver up, some white captives they had purchased of other Indians. Major Wynkoop, with a force of over 100 men, visited those Indians and received the white captives. On his return he was accompanied by a number of the chiefs and leading men of the Indians, whom he had invited to visit Denver for the purpose of conferring with the authorities there in regard to keeping peace. Among them were Black Kettle and White Antelope of the Cheyennes, and some chiefs of the Arapahoes. The council was held, and these chiefs stated that they were friendly to the whites, and always had been, and that they desired peace. Governor Evans and Colonel Chivington, the commander of that military district, advised them to repair to Fort Lyon and submit to whatever terms the military commander there should impose. This was done by the Indians, who were treated somewhat as prisoners of war, receiving rations, and being obliged to remain within certain bounds.

 

All the testimony goes to show that the Indians, under the immediate control of Black Kettle and White Antelope of the Cheyennes, and Left Hand of the Arapahoes, were and had been friendly to the whites, and had not been guilty of any acts of hostility or depredation. The Indian agents, the Indian interpreter and others examined by your committee, all testify to the good character of those Indians. Even Governor Evans and Major Anthony, though evidently willing to convey to your committee a false impression of the character of those Indians, were forced, in spite of their prevarication, to admit that they knew of nothing they had done which rendered them deserving of punishment. Continue Reading

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Great Jesuits 6: Peacemaker

Number 6 in my series on great Jesuits of American history.  Pierre-Jean De Smet first saw the light of day in Dendermonde in Belgium on January 30, 1801.  His parents would have been astonished if they had been told that in his life their newborn would travel over 180,000 miles as a missionary, and most of it in the Wild West of the United States.

Emigrating to the US in 1821 as part of his desire to serve as a missionary, De Smet entered the Jesuit novitiate at Whitemarsh, Maryland.  In a move that today would have secularists screaming “Separation of Church and State!” and conspiracy buffs increasing the tin foil content of their hats, the US government subsidized a Jesuit mission being established in the new state of Missouri among the Indians.  At the time the US government often did this for missionaries of many Christian denominations among the Indians.  So it was that in 1823 De Smet and other members of the order trekked west and established a mission to the Indians at Florissant, Missouri, near Saint Louis.  Studying at the new Saint Regis Seminary in Florissant, Father De Smet was ordained on September 23, 1827.  Now a prefect at the seminary, he studied Indian languages and customs.  In 1833 he returned to Belgium for health problems and was unable to return to Missouri until 1837.

In 1838 he founded the St. Joseph Mission in Council Bluffs for the Potawatomi Indians.   He also began his career as a peacemaker as he journeyed to the territory of the Sioux to work out a peace between them and the Potawatomi.  It should be emphasized that Father De Smet was making these journeys at a time when he was often the only white man for hundreds of miles other than for a few mountain men and scattered traders.  He quickly earned a reputation among the Indians as utterly fearless and a white man whose word they could trust.

In 1840 he journeyed to the Pacific Northwest to establish a mission among the Flathead and Nez Perces tribes, who had been begging for a decade for “Black Robes” to be sent to them and teach them about Christ.  After visiting them, Father De Smet promised that he would go back to Saint Louis and return with another “Black Robe” to establish a permanent mission.  On his way back he visited the Crow, the Gros Ventres and other tribes.  In 1841 he returned to the Flatheads along with Father Nicholas Point and established St. Mary’s Mission  on the Bitterroot River, thirty miles south of present day Missoula.  The mission was quite successful as indicated by this event.  One of the converted chiefs of the Flatheads, after baptism, chose the baptismal name of Victor.  On one occasion Father De Smet was preaching to the Flatheads and mentioned how in Europe the Holy Father confronted many enemies of the Faith.  Victor became indignant and said, “Should our Great Father, the Great chief of the Black robes, be in danger–you speak on paper–invite him in our names to our mountains. We will raise his lodge in our midst; we will hunt for him and keep his lodge provided, and we will guard him against the approach of his enemies!” Continue Reading