Sand Creek Massacre: Genocide?
The World English Dictionary defines the term “genocide” as “the policy of deliberately killing a nationality or ethnic group.” Though the term “genocide” was not coined until 1944, acts of genocide have been committed throughout history. While some historians believe the killing and acts of violence toward Native Americans is considered genocide, others argue that genocide is an act of intent and does not describe the colonization experience. It is debated, then, whether one of the most heinous acts of violence against Native Americans, known as the Sand Creek Massacre, is considered genocide.
The Sand Creek Massacre occurred on November 29, 1864. It stands as one of the cruelest acts against the Native citizens of the United States. In the early dawn of that morning, Colonel John M. Chivington and his army, known as the Third Colorado Volunteers, brutally attacked a Cheyenne and Arapaho village along Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado. With more than seven hundred well-armed men, Chivington attacked the village of six hundred peaceful Native people. Two-thirds of the village was comprised of women, children, and the elderly. The younger men in the village were out hunting buffalo at the time, so they were not present when the massacre occurred (Brown).
Black Kettle, the chief of the Cheyenne tribe, met with Major Anthony at Fort Lyon a short time before the massacre, and was assured by him that if he and his people camped at Sand Creek they would be under the protection of the military at the fort. As chaos erupted in the village, with the soldiers assembling on two sides of the encampment, Black Kettle stood in front of his lodge waving the American flag and the white flag of surrender from a long lodge pole. He told his people not to be afraid, reminding them of the agreement of their protection by the United States soldiers. However, the firing of guns and the screaming of women and children drowned out his words....