The United Methodists have issued a formal apology for the massacre of 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women and children at Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado 132 years ago.
Col. John Chivington of the 1st Colorado Cavalary, a Methodist lay preacher in Denver, led the attack on the defenseless encampment in 1864.
The Rev. Alvin Deer, who works with Cheyenne and Arapaho in Oklahoma, brought his petition for an apology to Denver for the United Methodists’ annual general conference. It was approved unanimously.
Although 16,000 American Indians belong to the United Methodist Church, the Sand Creek massacre has hindered Deer’s ministry, said Ginny Underwood, director of the United Methodists’ Native American Communication Office.
“The Sand Creek massacre is such an open wound,” said Underwood, granddaughter of Comanches and Kiowas. “There have been a lot of hard feelings. Something that happened 13 decades ago is still a shadow over the church.”
“The church has come full circle, accepting Native American spirituality as valuable to the ministry,” she said.
In the 1860s, Colorado made it public policy to rid its territory of all American Indians, according to the Methodists’ resolution.
Chivington’s soldiers mutilated many of those they killed during a pre-dawn attack Nov. 29 on Black Kettle’s village, which was flying an American flag.
Yet, when Chivington died 30 years later, he was honored as a hero by Coloradans and Methodists.
The resolution noted that United Methodists see themselves as “champions of ethnic diversity” and acknowledge “that racism is a sin.”