On November 29th, 1864, one of the most horrible crimes was committed along the shores of Big Sandy Creek, even though it didn’t seem like a crime at the time. Several events led up to this event, including the murder of a family nearby in the months preceding, and at time this seemed the only recourse. I’m referring to the Massacre of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe who had made their winter camp along the shores of this creek.
In the early morning hours, as the camp of approximately 500 people were just waking up and starting their days, Colonel John Chivington and soldiers attacked the camp. At the time, the camp was mainly made up of the elderly, children and women; the men having done what the men did – set out to hunt, leaving only a small number behind. The attack by U.S. soldiers was considered even more despicable after the fact, and several soldiers came forward and told how the camp, under a flag of truce, was brutally attacked, everyone within sight and reach was killed.
While this story has a great deal more detail, and long reaching affects for Colorado, the soldiers, Chivington and the survivors, this story is about the ghosts and spirits who remained, and may still remain today, on the site of the massacre.
On December 2, 1865, a buffalo hunter named Kipling Brightwater rode into Fort Lyons with a report of a band of Cheyenne camped along the Big Sandy Creek. Soldiers rode out, but there was no sign of the camp having ever been there, let alone having recently left. Brightwater is chalked up as either delusional or hung over, and nothing more comes of it. However, the next November, Brightwater again sees a band of Cheyenne set up in the same place – teepees, animals, fires, people, so he decides to enter the camp and find out what is going on. As he approaches, a mist comes up and the camp disappears into it, leaving behind the sound of a woman crying out in mourning.
This was not the last sighting. Other buffalo hunters also saw the camp, some claiming the Indians stood still and stared at them in an accusatory manner. Sightings continued – in 1896, in 1902 when attempts to photograph the camp were made with no success. IN 1911, a woman hears a child crying near the creek, but finds no one. As late as 1956 and 1997, people who enter the area feel pain, anguish, and grief so bad they have to leave. Archeological digs in the area have left the diggers with overwhelming senses of grief and sadness.
Do the Cheyenne still inhabit their winter camp, waiting for their truce that never came, are they looking for an apology, or do they just come to remind us to never forget the atrocity, or does the horror of the day still linger in that spot? We may never know.