Howling Wolf, a Cheyenne artist, survived the Sand Creek Massacre, which he depicted in this remarkable work of art painted a year after the conflict.

Drawing by Howling Wolf, courtesy of Wikimedia

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  • On November 29, 1864, a cavalry unit from the U.S. Army attacked a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho settlers on the banks of the Sand Creek, Colorado. The Sand Creek Massacre is one of the worst acts committed by the United States in the so-called “Indian Wars” of the 1800s.
    Although the Cheyenne-Arapaho camp was peaceful, there were longstanding conflicts between the U.S. Army and Native Americans. Cheyenne and Arapaho people had endured several forced relocations from their Midwestern homes, largely due to white immigrants seeking to profit from the nearby Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Many young Cheyenne also identified themselves as “Dog Soldiers,” militants who rejected government agreements that limited their sovereignty. Dog Soldiers had attacked Army cavalry troops for months leading up to the Sand Creek Massacre.
    The Sand Creek Massacre began as Army troops rode down from hills to the Native American village in the dry river valley. The American flag was flying over the village, which Army officers had told Native American leaders would signal the village’s friendly status. Most adult men in the village had left on a bison hunt, leaving mostly women, children, the elderly, and sick or injured. Regardless, American soldiers fired on the inhabitants. Dozens fled to dunes near the dry river, where they attempted to dig protective trenches. 
    More than 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho were killed in the massacre. Today, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site commemorates the tragedy.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    Arapaho Noun

    people and culture native to the Midwest of the U.S.

    bank Noun

    a slope of land adjoining a body of water, or a large elevated area of the sea floor.

    cavalry Noun

    military unit that serves on horseback.

    Cheyenne Noun

    people and culture native to the northern Midwest of the United States.

    commemorate Verb

    to honor an event on a specific date.

    conflict Noun

    a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

    dune Noun

    a mound or ridge of loose sand that has been deposited by wind.

    Encyclopedic Entry: dune
    endure Verb

    to survive.

    forced relocation Noun

    migration of people from one place to another, as ordered by the government or international authority.

    gold rush Noun

    mass migration of people to a region where gold has been discovered.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    inhabitant Noun


    massacre Noun

    mass killing of large number of people.

    Midwest Noun

    area of the United States consisting of the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

    militant Noun

    person who is very aggressive and even violent in support of a cause.

    Native American Noun

    person whose ancestors were native inhabitants of North or South America. Native American usually does not include Eskimo or Hawaiian people.

    profit Noun

    money earned after production costs and taxes are subtracted.

    protect Verb

    to take action to prevent injury or attack.

    reject Verb

    to refuse or throw away.

    river valley Noun

    depression in the earth caused by a river eroding the surrounding soil.

    settler Noun

    person who migrates and establishes a residence in a largely unpopulated area.

    signal Noun

    something that serves as a sign or communication.

    sovereignty Noun

    power or independence within a region.

    tragedy Noun

    very sad event.

    trench Noun

    long, deep depression, either natural or man-made.

    troop Noun

    a soldier.

    village Noun

    small human settlement usually found in a rural setting.

    Encyclopedic Entry: village