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Sand Creek site donated to Indians; land expected to become part of designated national historic site. (Historic Preservation).

CHIVINGTON, COLO. -- The story of the Sand Creek Massacre, considered one of the great shames of American history, is closer to being properly told, after a casino management company agreed to buy land at the heart of the massacre site and donate it to two Indian tribes that consider it sacred.

Southwest Entertainment Inc. of Minneapolis agreed to buy the 1,465-acre ranch, known as a key piece of land at the site, in April and donate it to the Cheyenne-Arapho Tribes of Oklahoma. Ultimately, the Park Service is expected to administer the property as part of Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, which could cover as many as 12,500 acres.

The historic site would commemorate the massacre during which about 700 Colorado militia troops killed approximately 163 Cheyenne and Arapho women, children, and old men under the leadership of Black Kettle and other chiefs, who thought they slept under the protection of the United States, on November 29, 1864.

"Establishment of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site would be final recognition of American military might used against an essentially defenseless native civilian population," said Alicia Seyler, NPCA's American Indian liaison.

For the tribes driven from the land so long ago, the site would allow an opportunity to tell the story of the massacre from their perspective.

"Our history will be told the way it happened," said Clara Bushyhead, an Arapho from Oklahoma, "not the way it was told to us in school."

"We are very excited about it because it has been over a century and we haven't had the opportunity to take care of the land properly," added Robert P. Tabor, chairman of the Cheyenne and Arapho Tribes of Oklahoma.

Initially, the federal government had offered to buy the ranch, owned by William Dawson. Frustrated by what he considered a low offer, Dawson put the land up for public sale. Two months later, he got the money he wanted, about $1.5 million, from Southwest Entertainment Inc.

"This is a win-win situation for everyone," said Dawson.

Without Dawson's land, establishing the historic site would have been next to impossible, said Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), sponsor of the legislation passed in November 2000 that designated the site.

Since then, the Conservation Fund has purchased 240 acres--other than the Dawson ranch--from three of 17 property owners who have land within the proposed park boundary. The Park Service, the tribes, and the state of Colorado must now determine whether enough property has been acquired to establish the site, said Alexa Roberts, project manager for the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site.

"At this point, we probably still have a few additional properties to acquire, one way or another," she said.

Following the purchase of the crucial Dawson land, however, officials are optimistic that the Sand Creek site will someday be a reality--and an important historical achievement.

"This is the first unit in the National Park System to be called a massacre site," Roberts said. "That is historically very significant--we are finally acknowledging a terrible event in American history.

"The recognition of this land as a massacre site is long overdue," Roberts added, "and the story needs telling."
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Title Annotation:Sand Creek Massacre land to belong to Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes
Author:Dougherty, Ryan
Publication:National Parks
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2002
Previous Article:Did you know? (NPCA News and Notes).
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