On November 29, 1864, the Sand Creek Massacre resulted in the slaughter of 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho elders, women and children who were camping along the Big Sandy Creek. Colonel John M. Chivington and a group of nearly 700 volunteer soldiers carried out the predawn attack on more than 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho Natives who believed they were safe under U.S. military protection and had come there to sign a peace treaty with the government. That wasn’t so. The tumultuous, bloody events that followed changed the course of history.

While Chivington’s troops returned to a heroes’ welcome in Denver, the Sand Creek Massacre was soon recognized as a national disgrace. The incident was investigated and condemned by two congressional committees and a military commission. More recently, Colorado’s political leaders made formal apologies on behalf of agents of government and rescinded 1864 proclamations by Governor John Evans that authorized killing of Native Americans in Colorado territory. These proclamations had remained on the books for more than 150 years prior to recission in 2021.


In 1999, archaeologists and historians from the National Park Service and the Colorado Historical Society, accompanied by Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants, collected the Indigenous knowledge and physical evidence of the massacre site. As a result, in 2000 Congress authorized a 12,480-acre site boundary. However, all of the properties within the boundary were held by private individuals. Over the course of over 20 years, The Conservation Fund built relationships with willing landowners to purchase land within the site boundary and transfer it to the National Park Service to protect, interpret and memorialize the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. By 2007, over 3,000 acres had been assembled — enough land for the site to be formally established and opened to the public. In 2022, the protected acreage more than doubled with the addition of 3,500 acres which The Conservation Fund acquired and held until transfer to NPS, thanks to funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Visitors to the National Historic Site can now experience how dramatically the Site is forever changed by the protection of this addition.

At a special event on October 5, 2022, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, NPS Director Charles Sams, representatives of the Northern Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, and Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, and many others came to dedicate this new land to the national historic site. Learn more here.

“It is our solemn responsibility at the Department of the Interior, as caretakers of America’s national treasures, to tell the story of our nation. The events that took place here forever changed the course of the Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho, and Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. We will never forget the hundreds of lives that were brutally taken here – men, women and children murdered in an unprovoked attack. Stories like the Sand Creek Massacre are not easy to tell but it is my duty – our duty – to ensure that they are told. This story is part of America’s story.”

— Secretary Haaland

“The freshwater spring on this land, the creek bed, the mature stand of cottonwoods — all are associated with the Cheyenne and Arapaho encampments that were attacked at Sand Creek. Adding this land to the National Historic Site helps us to venerate the traumatic events of 1864, the land itself serving as a vehicle to carry the lessons of the Sand Creek Massacre into the future.”

— Christine Quinlan, Colorado Associate State Director for The Conservation Fund

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