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Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway

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Nothing can change the terrible facts of the Sand Creek Massacre. The human toll of this horrific event and the ensuing loss of a way of life have never been fully recounted until now. In Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway, Louis Kraft tells this story, drawing on the words and actions of those who participated in the events at this critical time.

The history that culminated in the end of a lifeway begins with the arrival of Algonquin-speaking peoples in North America, proceeds through the emergence of the Cheyennes and Arapahos on the Central Plains, and ends with the incursion of white people seeking land and gold. Beginning in the earliest days of the Southern Cheyennes, Kraft brings the voices of the past to bear on the events leading to the brutal murder of people and its disastrous aftermath. Through their testimony and their deeds as reported by contemporaries, major and supporting players give us a broad and nuanced view of the discovery of gold on Cheyenne and Arapaho land in the 1850s, followed by the land theft condoned by the U.S. government. The peace treaties and perfidy, the unfolding massacre and the investigations that followed, the devastating end of the Indians’ already-circumscribed freedom—all are revealed through the eyes of government officials, newspapers, and the military; Cheyennes and Arapahos who sought peace with or who fought Anglo-Americans; whites and Indians who intermarried and their offspring; and whites who dared to question what they considered heinous actions.

As instructive as it is harrowing, the history recounted here lives on in the telling, along with a way of life destroyed in all but cultural memory. To that memory this book gives eloquent, resonating voice.

448 pages, Hardcover

Published March 12, 2020

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Louis Kraft

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Profile Image for timv.
276 reviews4 followers
February 20, 2021
This detailed history of the subjugation of the southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes and the massacre at Sand Creek ends with an apt quotation from a movie that featured the Southern Cheyenne: “ What happened was inevitable. The way it happened was unconscionable”.

The book is very well researched and nicely written as it tries to give the back story as to the cultural traditions and thoughts of the tribal leaders as they negotiated with the United States soldiers and representatives, as well as reflecting the written records. This is important because the official written record often did not reflect what was said and promised in the negotiations. It’s the usual age old story of the United States government negotiating with the tribes. The United States told the tribes one thing verbally and wrote down on the contract a different thing and then often did not fulfill their end of the agreement.

I especially enjoyed the illustrations. There’s a couple useful maps at the beginning of the book and I suggest you bookmark them. I think the book could’ve used a couple more maps and perhaps some sort of visual explanation of the tribal structures and the various chiefs of the various bands within the Southern Cheyenne and the Arapahoe.

A lot has changed in the 40 years I’ve been reading books on the history of the Plains Indian tribes. No longer do you find any apologists for John Chivington, the leader of the massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho‘s at Sand Creek, thank god. One of the tidbits I learned from reading this book was finding out what John Chivington did after Sand Creek? He ran for Congress....Such a sad commentary on our society. if you don’t understand why this is such a sad commentary, read the book-you will understand.

Over the years I’ve read a few books about Sand Creek and I would put this one on top of the stack. There’s a lot of important American West history in this book
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