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A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  220 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In the early morning of November 29, 1864, with the fate of the Union still uncertain, part of the First Colorado and nearly all of the Third Colorado volunteer regiments, commanded by Colonel John Chivington, surprised hundreds of Cheyenne and Arapaho people camped on the banks of Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. More than 150 Native Americans were slaughter ...more
Hardcover, 363 pages
Published February 11th 2013 by Harvard University Press
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4.21  · 
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 ·  220 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Here’s what we know for certain about Sand Creek. On November 29, 1864, soldiers of the First and Third Colorado, commanded by Colonel John Chivington, attacked the Cheyenne and Arapahoe village camped along the banks of the creek. At least 150 Indians were killed, many of them women and children. After that, agreement ends. Ever since the confrontation, people (the white participants, the Indian survivors, historians) have been grappling over the meaning. Even the actual location of Black Kettl ...more
Craig Werner
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are very few challenges facing historians than figuring out how to craft Native American history in a way that gives full consideration to both written (often "white") and oral (often tribal) sources, perspectives and world views. The Sand Creek massacre--contemporary spin doctors tried to recast it as a "battle"--is one of the thorniest cases, in part because of the multiple Native nations involved (Northern and Southern Cheyennes and Arapahoes), in even greater part because of the long-s ...more
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Since 6th grade when an excellent teacher first introduced my class to a more complete history of the interaction between Native Americans and the U.S. government, I have been fascinated by this topic. If you're like me, you will want to read this book. It tells the story of the efforts of the National Park Service to create a memorial to the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. The process took almost a decade and was complicated by negotiations between the four tribal groups who descended from the mas ...more
Dec 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
On November 29, 1864 peaceful American Indian men, women, and children under the protection of the United States flag were slaughtered indiscriminately by United States soldiers. In 2007 the National Park Service opened the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site to protect the geographic location of the carnage and provide a venue to teach the public about the tragic events which preceded and followed the killing at Sand Creek. Ari Kelman’s masterful book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling o ...more
Anson Cassel Mills
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Between the time I ordered this book for my college library and the time I read it, Misplaced Massacre had won the 2014 Bancroft Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the field of American history. The book should therefore stand head-and-shoulders above the average historical monograph, and it does.

In November 1864, during the American Civil War, a former Methodist minister, Colonel John Chivington, and the 3rd Colorado Volunteers attacked an encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians—at
Marjorie Elwood
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very dense, thoroughly researched tome that reads, in parts, like a mystery, with the mystery being: where was the actual site of the massacre? The author recounts the known facts of the November 29, 1864, Sand Creek Massacre, as well as the interpretations and mythology ever since, particularly as they have played out in the creation of the National Historic Site. A complex narrative.

"For in the end, this story of memorializing Sand Creek suggests that history and memory are malleable, that e
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Misplaced Massacre was an exhausting, tedious, yet very powerful recounting of, what was to me, a vague piece of Colorado history. His research and commitment to piecing together nearly every aspect (I think that this book came out slightly before the Sand Creek Memorial was built) from a fairly objective point of view was incredibly impressive. I felt like a tragic event like this would bring people together when it came to creating this memorial, but I was/am naive. Politics, infighting amon ...more
Kylee Ehmann
This book both highlights the history of the massacre of Arapaho and Cheyenne people and the very contentious road to memorializing this event. It touches on tribal politics, issues of indigenous sovereignty, racism past and present, land rights, government authority, and issues of interpretive authority on sites with difficult and brutal histories. The book ties present day conflict in establishing the historic site as a public memorial with the horrific actions of the army, native peoples, and ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Nuanced account of the internal and external struggles to memorialize Sand Creek as part of the National Park Service. I was fascinated by the discussion of memory and the role it plays in how we consider our own past as well as the (often) conflicting perspectives of the various stakeholders in this situation. A portrait of why bureaucracy can move so slowly when looking at building a memorial like the Sand Creek Massacre Historial Site as well as a look into the way that trauma from decades or ...more
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, colorado
Besides recounting the history of the Sand Creek Massacre, this book describes the lengthy and fractious process of establishing a memorial. This included reaching agreement between landowners, National Park Service employees, and the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes about the precise location of the massacre; and resolving culture clashes, hurt feelings, and personal agendas. The book bogged down for me at times… there were a lot of players to keep track of, and the back-and-forth might have been al ...more
Rachel Powell
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Emotional and Captivating

I was assigned to read “A Misplaced Massacre” for class and I must say it is one of the best books I have read. I found myself so involved in the story that I did not know what was going on around me. Mr. Kelman did a wonderful job with his descriptions of characters and details of locations. I found myself on a roller coaster ride with the Cheyanne and Arapaho as they fought for their ancestors memory. If you are interested in Native American History then this is a must
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
a really engaging recounting of the numerous struggles that went along with creating the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Colorado. Very interesting from a public history perspective and working with collective memories, and showing just what can go into the historical markers, monuments, sites we see and visit.
Hannah Givens
A great read for historians, general interest, and public historians alike -- it's detailed and precise, but also quite readable and not intimidating at all.

Ari Kelman narrates the fraught history of an attempt to make Sand Creek in Colorado a National Park Service historic site. At the same time, he conveys the story of the Sand Creek massacre in a flashback style throughout the early parts of the book. Part of his aim with the book is to contextualize the Civil War and the Indian Wars with eac
Caitlin Smith
Jun 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: academic
One of Kelman’s key strengths as an author is his ability to move effortlessly between the multiple times, places, and persons represented in his work. While the bulk of the narrative takes place in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the NPS was attempting to locate and official memorialize the Sand Creek site, Kelman makes frequent references to past events both contemporary with the massacre and spanning the century and half in between. In each case, Kelman relies on thematic similarities to ...more
May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is probably not everybody's cup of tea, but I found it really interesting. In 1864 a group of Union troops and Colorado militia attacked some encampments of Cheyenne and Arapaho bands in southeastern Colorado, who believed they were under American protection, killing probably around 150-160 mostly women, children, and elderly natives. The event was controversial from the beginning. What happened; was it a battle or a massacre; why did it happen? What were its consequences for the Indian whi ...more
Paul Cool
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Creative nonfiction at its best! I use "creative" in the sense of the author's story-telling ability and command of the English language to create a compelling and factually reliable account of the long and very contentious road traveled by the National Park Service, Colorado historians, local landowners, and, perhaps most determinedly of all, representatives of the Northern and Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, to identify and settle for all time the true location of the ("misplaced") Sand ...more
Rebecca Conard
Jul 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Kelman unpacks the messy craft of public history through a well-chosen National Park Service case study, the making of Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. The narrative structure is a meticulous weaving of the historical record of events as they were variously remembered by those who participated in, survived, or commented on the mass slaughter of Cheyenne and Arapaho that took place on November 29, 1864, along Sand Creek in modern-day Kiowa County, Colorado, and the contemporary struggl ...more
Jay Quarantello
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A Misplaced Massacre is a fascinating examination of historical memory and its stakes in a modern America. I've never read a book which so perfectly captures the interactions of Native Americans, white ranchers, and white outsiders as this one. Some of the passages instantly brought me back to my time in South Dakota - to lessons learned and lessons now understood. In some of the middle chapters, Misplaced Massacre gets bogged down in bureaucratic infighting, but how each perspective approaches ...more
Neil Garrison
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the book. I would recommend it to others. The book is a "fly on the wall" sort of writing style (i.e., the book's author tells the "warts and all" story of how the National Park Service established a National Historic Site at the location where the Colorado militia attacked a peaceful camp of Cheyenne and Arapaho). I enjoyed this approach (i.e., it was not a sanitized and whitewashed version of what happened in establishing the NPS site). There was plenty of petty bickering...and...ego ...more
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
this was so difficult for me to read because the author flips between perspective, time frames, and locations from one chapter to the next. I actually drew a diagram (and a map) as I was reading so I could track who the people were and how they were related to one another.

I only read this because it was required reading for a faculty group and I found it mentally painful to read. I sold it on Amazon the day I finished reading it.

I feel like a jerk for saying that because works like this give a
Thorn MotherIssues
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2013
First off, Ari is an internet friend of mine, so I read the book for that reason, but I really found it fascinating how he addressed not only the contested history of the massacre (or "battle," if you want to know some of what was contested) and the ways it's been commemorated in casual Colorado history, among the Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants of the victims, and when discussed by "fans" of the Indian Wars, among others. This is a book about how stories get told and remembered by people who a ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a personal favorite. Kelman's account of the memorialization of the events at Sand Creek is inspired by a desire to paint this history in all its contestation. He does so quite beautifully, even weaving in his own struggles as an historian to show the challenge of reconciling various historical accounts, government pressure and cultural memory, to name but a few. Kelman's book treats this history and its historiography in fascinating detail. It's an accessible and edifying book that shou ...more
Tom Bensing
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
While a book on the search for and creation of the Sand Creek Massacre Historical Site could be potentially boring, Ari Kelman's tale of conflict and the quest for remembrance and resolution benefits from his engaging writing style. While the book has a limited audience, if it sounds remotely interesting to you, definitely check it out!
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a read! I did not learn much about Sand Creek while growing up in a rural community. In fact, we barely learned anything about Native Americans other than around Thanksgiving in elementary school. I truly appreciated how Kelman told the story of his experiences during the struggle over Sand Creek.
Gilbert Gonzales
Jun 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The author discusses in detail controversies surrounding the Sand Creek Massacre and the memorial. In my opinion, the author is able to communicate the concerns from the Native American viewpoint as well as from the non-Native American. An excellent book.
Josh Reid
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed Kelman's journalistic approach and his way of "doing" history. I'm looking forward to using this in the classroom.
Denise M.
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a work of scholarship, but it is as moving as a novel.
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting look at how the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site came to be developed and the continuing struggles for interpretation.
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
This was shelved under "History" at my bookstore, but it's more accurately described as an extended piece of journalism. It's very well done -- informative, thought-provoking and very readable.
Ai Miller
Apr 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
So this book was a complicated read for me. Normally I post my reviews of books I read for school before class, because I want to get my thoughts out there before we talk about it, but I genuinely couldn't tell how I felt about this book until after we talked about it, and even then, sorting out my feelings was complicated. At first, I couldn't tell if my reservations about the book had to do with the content of the book, or the way it was written, and ultimately it was a little bit of both, tho ...more
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I'm happy to answer any questions about the book. 3 14 Mar 26, 2013 03:03PM  

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Ari Kelman is McCabe Greer Professor of History at Penn State University, where he teaches a wide range of courses, including on the Civil War and Reconstruction, the politics of memory, environmental history, Native American history, World War II, and America in the 1960s. He is the author of A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2013), recipien ...more