The Sand Creek Massacre occurred at dawn on November 29, 1864, approximately 675 U.S. volunteer soldiers (including Boulder’s local Company D) attacked a village of about 700 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians along Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. Over the course of eight hours the troops killed around 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho people composed mostly of women, children, and the elderly.
The dead, included Chief Niwot (or Left Hand). Many Boulder locals know Chief Niwot (Nowoo3 in the Arapaho language) from the curse attributed to him: “People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.” What many Boulder residents don’t know is that Chief Niwot worked tirelessly to show white settlers that they could live in peace with the Arapaho: he risked his life to return white hostages; attempted to vote in elections; regularly went to the Rocky Mountain News to protest the way the Arapaho were depicted, and even jumped up on stage after a theatrical performance in Denver to speak with the white audience about the peaceful intentions of his people.
Another aspect of our history many Boulder residents don’t know is that Chief Niwot, against the protests and positions of U.S. soldiers like Major Edward Wynkoop and Captain Silas Soule, was ultimately killed during the Sand Creek Massacre by some of the very founders of Boulder that he once protected. Margaret Coel wrote a biography of Chief Niwot that inspired the One Action series in Boulder.
Margaret Coel will speak on Chief Niwot on Thursday November 6th at 7pm at the Boulder Public Library on Canyon as part of the city’s commemorations for the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.