Video: A conversation between Henry Little Bird, Joe Big Medicine, Gail Ridgely and the Haydens (descendants of John Evans)

     Friday, May 22,  an all day meeting on acknowledgment and repair for Sand Creek occurred at DU, sponsored by the Conflict Resolution Institute, the Committee on  John Evans and the Sand Creek Massacre and the Committee on Human Rights and Democracy.  I am going to put up the videos, but not in the order they were presented.  The conversation/video here -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZzUuFN5wQE  – was the final session.
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    Laurel Hayden, a great great great granddaughter of John Evans is a student at my school, of Native American human rights (she hopes to work in this area in the West).  When she was 8 years old, she went with her father, Tom Hayden, to the Sand Creek Memorial site.  She, as others in the family, has been studying the Massacre and seeking/working for repair much of her life,  They all speak knowledgeably of Evans’ culpability. 
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    As a student of these matters for thirty years, Mary Hayden praised the DU Report (DU portfolio: John Evans and the Sand Creek Massacre) and said, rightly I think (I speak to this on the first panel),    
 that she senses more to Evans’ guilt than even our Report suggests…
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     Mary asked permission of the Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants to speak at the gathering, since the land we are on was stolen by violence (in this, she followed the order of the first meeting where permission was given). 
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    There is a sense among many of us that the descendants and beneficiaries (often not conscious – in the grip of what I call a Founding Amnesia) of those who committed genocide from Coast to Coast, and who drove, through the Sand Creek Massacre, Cheyennes and Arapahos from Colorado so Evans and others could run the railways through it, need to ask forgiveness, to listen.
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    Some other Evans descendants came to a private dinner at the Fort last fall who had never heard what had happened to the Cheyennes and Arapahos.  They listened and learned.
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         Caroline Goodwin, Mary’s cousin,  has written a beautiful poem about Sand Creek for the occasion “I will not say” here and below. She passed out copies at the meeting.  Al Addison, one of the chiefs of the Northern Arapahoe (driven out of Colorado, North to Wyoming, South to Oklahoma) , suggested that everyone sign it as a new treaty between the descendants of the Cheyennes and Arapahos and the Evanses.
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   This story was one of the high points of our gathering, the idea that there could be, even now, resonant words, new treaties, new beginnings.
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     There are other great-great relatives of Evans who, sadly though unsurprisingly, want to look the other way.  Mary say charmingly that all she heard was “Gov Evans got in with that man, Chivington.”   Or as Tom put it, “Evans was out of town…”
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      As Tom Hayden, working on this for thirty years, and all of these family members have discovered, these slogans were empt and buty covers for murderousness.
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     Henry Little Bird spoke beautifully and sadly of the presence of the Massacre to this moment.  His 4 and ½ year old grandson spoke to his daughter about how the “whites” had slaughtered his grandfather’s people at Sand Creek and taken the land.  This is hard but important knowledge, stories (facts in this case) that need general recognition.
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      Joe Big Medicine and Gail Ridgely also spoke powerfully about what happens to names.  Joe is part Cheyenne, part Arapaho, part white.  Gail’s family name was translated Ridge Bear; half the family has it, half “Ridgely,” the name assigned on the Rez.
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      They and other descendants attended the meetings of our Evans Committee once a quarter, supported by Chancellor Bob Coombe.  They contributed greatly to our understanding, to the vividness of our Report, though writing it was a collective effort (like sausage-making as Nancy Wadsworth, our of the chief makers, put it).  
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        Even in our report on Evans and Sand Creek as Billy Stratton underlines, their voices are not strongly present (there is a powerful speech of Black Kettle at Camp Weld…).  As Ramona Beltran, a Yaqui descendant, professor of Social Work, and member of our Evans and Sand Creek committee, puts it, their quest has been, resiliently, to undo transgenerational trauma. 
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    Creating space to heal, space for such conversations to occur, space for indigenous descendants to be a larger, recognized part of the student body and faculty is something that our school – I am proud to say – is working on.
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    Tamra Pierson Destree, the leader of the Conflict Resolution Institute, my colleague and friend, spoke, shaken and powerful, of her great great grandfather settling in South Dakota, on Lakota land…  
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    Truth and Reconciliation are the big words made real in Desmond Tutu’s No Future without Forgiveness.  Our aim here is the more modest acknowledgment and repair.  For there is still a great distance  one which will take long, determined efforts to overcome.

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    Still, that the descendants have reached out with their stories, that Chancellor Bob Coombe, reading Gary Roberts’ thesis, spoke every year with beginning students about it, that faculty members organized themselves to conduct a study, that indigenous students  and others have organized many events this past year, that many took part in the Spiritual Healing Run last November to early December, that Governor Hickenlooper issued a powerful apology – all are precursors to this day.

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      A public, insightful, amicable conversation between Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants and the Hayden family – this is heartfelt, remarkable…

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