The Sand Creek Massacre is the worst event in the History of Colorado. It is believed to have taken place somewhere along Big Sandy Creek in Kiowa County, Colorado. The exact location is not known, but there is a small monument erected to the memories of the dead near the town of Chivington.
During 1864 there was a growing conflict between new settlers following gold (and avoiding Civil War) to Colorado Territory. The territorial governor, John Evans and other leaders were promoting peace and further treaty making with the Cheyenne and other Indians. They were understandably upset with being restricted to the small Sand Creek Reservation in eastern Colorado, and increasingly the younger braves were not listening to Chief Black Kettle. He had agreed to this in a new treaty in 1861, fearing the overwhelming forces the U.S. government had, but it also resulted in extreme privation and death due to inadequate resources on the reservation.
There had been periodic raids and killings by both sides from 1861 through 1864, Arapahoe and Cheyenne raids upon ranches and farms east of Denver. Reprisals by the US army. There was already near warfare when on June 10, 1864, the Nathan Hungate and his family were found murdered and scalped on their homestead in what would become Elbert County. The bodies were brought to Denver and displayed to an outraged public. The Rocky Mountain News and other publications loudly condemned the governor’s pacifist stance and calling for the " extermination of the red devils".
The man who acted on these calls was the ambitious "fighting parson" Major John M. Chivington. His commission, like that of the 3rd Colorado Volunteers formed to expel a Texas invasion of Colorado, was about to run out. With the governor out of the state he acted. Leading a regiment the 300+ kilometers from Denver to Fort Lyon, Colorado. There in the morning hours of November 29, 1864 they attacked and destroyed the Southern Cheyenne band led by Black Kettle, known as one of the leading "peace" chief. He had been told that the army would not attack them while flying the US flag. So while old glory few from the chief's tent at least 163 and as many as 250 people were slaughtered by the volunteers.
Chivington was never properly punished for his actions because his commission ran out just over a month later before the army investigation into the event was complete. Also there was not public will to prosecute him, though it did not earn him the public accolades and power he wanted either. The massacre ended Colorado’s chances of becoming a state for the next decade and the political career of John Evans. It also ended even the small chance of peace between the United States and the Indian tribes since they, probably rightfully, would never trust the US again.
See also: Indian Wars