This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.
If you’ve read my previous columns, you’ll remember the story of Silas Soule, a true Colorado hero who blew the whistle on John Chivington after the massacre of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek in 1864.
Every year, the Cheyenne and Arapaho hold the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run to commemorate the massacre and honor Silas Soule and others who spoke up against the actions of the cavalry that day. Every year the event is both moving and distressing, but for many, this year’s was particularly emotional — for two reasons.
After nearly a dozen years of bureaucratic wrangling, the Colorado Historical Society and other history activists have finally succeeded in placing a memorial marker for Captain Silas Soule on the building at the northwest corner of Fifteenth and Arapaho in Denver. This is the spot where Soule was assassinated several months after testifying against his former commander, John Chivington. At ten a.m. on Saturday, November 27, 2010, Colorado State Historian William Convery unveiled the plaque, which reads:
“Silas S. Soule. At this location on April 23, 1865, assassins shot and killed 1st Colorado Cavalry officer Capt. Silas S. Soule. During the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of November 29, 1864, Soule had disobeyed orders by refusing to fire on Chief Black Kettle’s peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho village. Later, at army hearings, Soule testified against his commander, Col. John M. Chivington, detailing the atrocities committed by the troops at Sand Creek. His murderers were never brought to justice.”
As part of the unveiling ceremony, Lee LaForce Lonebear, a descendant of Sand Creek victim Chief White Antelope of the Cheyenne, sang White Antelope’s song in honor of Captain Soule.
After the traditional walk to the capitol steps, the Cheyenne and Arapaho hosted a reception for participants at the beautiful Trinity United Methodist Church at 18th and Broadway. This brings us to the second reason why this year’s healing run was particularly special. The Methodist church has been reaching out to the Arapaho and Cheyenne, and one reason is because John M. Chivington, the central perpetrator of the massacre, was a Methodist minister.
As Bishop Elaine Stanovsky movingly says, “Methodists were key leaders of the massacre. We need to come to understand how Christian people could engage in these acts of wanton violence. We need to understand that Methodist churches in Colorado are built on a foundation of injustice. We can’t change the past. But we can form new relationships of mutual respect and honor. I’m here to build relationships that offer hope for the future.” Words that bring hope indeed.