On Saturday, November 29th Boulder non-profit One World Running distributed 300 pairs of new and near-new running shoes to Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal youth runners and supporters taking part in the annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run. Taking place over four days from November 29 thru December 3, the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run is a run unlike any other – it’s not a race but a healing run. Conducted annually by Cheyenne and Arapaho people to honor and commemorate their ancestors who were brutally massacred by U.S. soldiers in 1864, this year marked the 150th Anniversary of the event.
On a windy, cold, and grey morning in 1864, with the high grassy plains of eastern Colorado covered in a layer of snow, Col. John Chivington and members of the Colorado Cavalry approached the banks of Big Sandy Creek where 700 Cheyenne and Arapaho people were beginning to awake. Most of the men were not in the village, but out hunting buffalo to prepare food supplies for the rapidly approaching winter, while the women, children, and elders of the camp were left to tend to the horses and go about the daily needs of living a life close to the earth. Having just signed a peace treaty three years earlier – the Treaty of Fort Wise, which guaranteed to the Cheyenne and Arapaho people a reservation that included the lands they were camped on along the Big Sandy Creek – the men of the village felt that their families were safe at the camp while they were off hunting. Col. Chivington and members of the Colorado Cavalry, however, in a drunken rampage spurred by a lack of recent combat, the murder of Nathan Hungate and his family a few months earlier, and an authorization from Governor Evans to “kill and destroy… hostile Indians” did not recognize the Fort Wise treaty nor the peace provisions promulgated in it.
The ensuing massacre, with over 675 armed soldiers and four 12-pound mountain howitzers firing directly upon the women, children, and elders of the village is a sad and gruesome story. All told, over 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho women, children, and elders were killed, with a similar number wounded or maimed, left strewn along the cold, snowy creek bed to die. The bodies were never recovered or properly buried, as the soldiers set fire to the camp and the few wounded Cheyenne and Arapaho who survived struggled to make their way north in frigid weather to relative encampments on the Smoky Hill River to the north.
Now, on the 150th anniversary of the massacre, hundreds of tribal descendants of those who were killed gathered at the site to honor the spirits of their lost ancestors by conducting a healing run. Starting at the site of the massacre, Cheyenne and Arapaho runners, along with other Native people and participants, run a spiritual trail that guides their lost ancestors’ spirits home. Over the course of 150 miles and four days, runners trace a path from the site just outside of the small town of Eads in eastern Colorado to downtown Denver, culminating in a grand parade and ceremony that ends at the State Capital building.
One World Running, an international program promoting an awareness of health, fitness and nutrition by providing running shoes to those in need in the United States and around the world. was able to be involved in this significant event for a second year in a row, by providing shoes and shirts to the tribal runners. With the generous help and support of Pearl Izumi, Newton Running, and Brooks, who provided new and near-new running shoes, and Ironman who provided tech shirts, each of the tribal runners received a pair of shoes to complete the spiritual healing run in. OWR also puts on 5K walk/runs to foster an environment of exercise and to increase understanding and goodwill between people.