The most appropriate response

Bishop Stanovsky at Sand Creek

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, episcopal leader of the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone conferences, speaks Nov. 29 to attendees of the Sand Creek Massacre 150th Commemoration and opening of the 16th Annual Spiritual Healing Run. (Photo by Charmaine Robledo, United Methodist Mountain Sky Area)

EADS, Colo. — "Today we honor and share our tears with our Native American sisters and brothers," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Dent, of Trinity United Methodist Church, Denver, during the Prayerful Preparation gathering Nov. 29 at Eads United Methodist Church for the Sand Creek Massacre 150th anniversary.

Tears are our most appropriate response.

Dent emphasized that Nov. 29 was "not a celebration, it is a commemoration."

"Tears are our most appropriate response," Dent said.

On Nov. 29, 1864, more than 600 U.S. Army volunteer soldiers led by Methodist-ordained minister John Chivington attacked a peaceful camp of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes near Sand Creek. Nearly 200 women, children and elderly in the camp were killed. Many more were wounded.

Soldiers carried and paraded the body parts of the dead through the streets of Denver.

Spiritual Healing Run & Walk

In 1999, the Spiritual Healing Run & Walk was established to reclaim the trail the soldiers used to parade the mutilated bodies of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Members of the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone annual conferences attended the opening of the 16th Spiritual Healing Run & Walk at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historical Site east of Eads.

Headdress of Chief Phillip Whiteman Jr. at Sand Creek

The headdress of Chief Phillip Whiteman Jr. of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, blows in the wind at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historical Site during the 150th Commemoration and opening of the 16th Annual Spiritual Healing Run & Walk. (Photo by Charmaine Robledo, United Methodist Mountain Sky Area)

Prior to the opening, the Rocky Mountain Conference held a Prayerful Preparation gathering with a time of reflection and education on the Sand Creek Massacre. Bishop Elaine Stanovsky led the event, which included a screening of a documentary on Sand Creek and a panel with Native American pastors Jerry Boles and Norman Mark.

"Never walk an unforgiving man," said Mark. "Always forgive. ... You'll never forget, but in the process you'll heal."

Mark, a Navajo, said he teaches forgiveness and healing with his new church in Cortez, Colo., called Native Grace Intertribal Fellowship. He said that at the Sand Creek site, he'll play his flute "so they can sleep well."

Direct descendants

During the 150th Commemoration and opening of the Spiritual Healing Run at the Sand Creek site, direct descendants of massacre survivors spoke about their heritage and the meaning of this anniversary. Several thanked those in attendance for taking the time to be out at the site and participating in the commemoration events.

Reginald Killsnight Sr., a chief from the Northern Cheyenne tribe, spoke at the opening ceremony. He led a chief's song, along with other tribal leaders. The solemn song invited participants to listen for the voices of the Sand Creek Massacre victims and pray for continued healing.

After the opening ceremony, participants walked to the site's Monument Hill to see where the actual event took place.

The Rev. Linda Bibb of University Park United Methodist Church in Denver, said going to the Sand Creek site has a "sacredness" to it. "When you hear the wind, you can hear the voices,” she said. “The site connects us to all humanity."

Editor's note: Charmaine Robledo is Director of Communications for the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area of The United Church. The area includes both Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone annual conferences. This article first appeared in the Rocky Mountain Conference News as “Prayerful Preparation event readies conference members for Sand Creek anniversary” (Nov. 30, 2014).

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