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Healing Run Honors Victims Of The Sand Creek Massacre

Dean Wallowing Bull

A group of Cheyenne and Arapaho runners plan to cover 170 miles of ground this weekend to mark the 155th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre. 
The relay-style healing run begins at the site of the massacre in Kiowa County, Colorado, and will conclude in Denver on Sunday evening. Dean Wallowing Bull, who is Northern Arapaho and Northern Cheyenne,said that's the route the volunteer Third Colorado Cavalry marched after murdering and mutilating at least 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho people on November 29, 1864.

"As you're running, you're praying for all the people back home, and for all the ancestors that were murdered," Wallowing Bull said. "They killed helpless people. It was an atrocity."

The attack was rooted in an effort by the United States government to force Cheyenne and Arapaho people off the Great Plains of Eastern Colorado, land which had been promised to both tribes in the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty.

Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders had set up camp in southeastern Colorado by the banks of Sand Creek to await peace negotiations with the territorial government. Instead, a regiment of volunteer troops invaded the camp and carried out the now-infamous mass murder. Most of their victims were women, children and elders.

Wallowing Bull said he's running to honor the memory of his ancestors who survived the massacre and those who were killed.

"They sacrificed their lives so that we could be here alive today, living. That's what we want all these younger ones to know, that we wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for [our ancestors]," Wallowing Bull said.

This 21st annual Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run is dedicated to the late David Halaas, a historian who spent years fighting for the site of the massacre to be recognized as a National Historic Site. Members of the Northern Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, and Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma are among the participants.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at smaher4@uwyo.edu.

Savannah comes to Wyoming Public Media from NPR’s midday show Here & Now, where her work explored everything from Native peoples’ fraught relationship with American elections to the erosion of press freedoms for tribal media outlets. A proud citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, she’s excited to get to know the people of the Wind River reservation and dig into the stories that matter to them.
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