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Gov. Hickenlooper Apologizes On Colorado's Behalf For Sand Creek Massacre

State of Colorado

Governor John Hickenlooper has apologized on behalf of the state of Colorado for the Sand Creek Massacre. The Massacre happened the morning of Nov. 29, 1864 as cavalrymen known as the Colorado Volunteers converged on a sleeping group of mostly women, children and elderly Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. The 150-year-old event is one of the most notable incidents of violence against Native Americans in the history of the west.

"To all indigenous people and the proud and painful legacy you all represent, on behalf of the loving people of Colorado, I want to say I am sorry for the atrocities of our government that were visited on your ancestors," Hickenlooper said at the state capitol during a commemoration.

Hundreds were gathered to mark the anniversary and wrap up a four day spiritual healing run from the site of the massacre near Eads, to Denver.

Credit Bente Birkeland / RMCR
Hundreds gathered to mark the anniversary on the steps of the capitol, December 3, 2014.

Hickenlooper called the apology long overdue. He said he didn't make it lightly, and consulted with all of Colorado's former living Governors who agreed the state should not be afraid to criticize that which is inexcusable.

"That stretches back 40 years and each one of them agrees and is spirit standing beside me," said Hickenlooper.

In addition to the Governor's formal apology, state lawmakers passed a resolution earlier this year session to commemorate the 150th anniversary.

"We've got to make sure it's a steppingstone to continue building upon relationships, and get to a point where we don't have these kinds of atrocities," said Tim Dore (R-Elizabeth), the resolution's main sponsor.

Native Americans from the Arapaho and Cheyenne Tribes in Oklahoma said the apology and state recognition mean a lot. They encourage people to visit the Sand Creek National Historic site and learn about the events of that day, and hope it helps create a deeper understanding and brighter future.

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to clarify that the soldiers involved were the Colorado Volunteers, not U.S. Cavalry.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.