Remembering the US soldiers who refused orders to murder Native Americans at Sand Creek

Members and supporters of the Arapaho and Cheyenne Native American tribes, 2014. AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
Members and supporters of the Arapaho and Cheyenne Native American tribes, 2014. AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

Billy J. Stratton, University of Denver

Every Thanksgiving weekend for the past 17 years, Arapaho and Cheyenne youth lead a 180-mile relay from the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site to Denver.

The annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run opens at the site of the Sand Creek Massacre near Eads, Colorado, with a sunrise ceremony honoring some 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne people who lost their lives in the infamous massacre. This brutal assault was carried out by Colonel John Chivington on Nov. 29, 1864.

While the Sand Creek massacre has been the subject of numerous books, much less attention has been given to two heroes of this horrific event: U.S. soldiers Captain Silas Soule and Lt. Joseph Cramer.

Ledger art of Captain Silas S. Soule by George Levi (2014).
Courtesy of George Levi, Author provided

These were men who rejected the violence and genocide inherent in the “conquest of the West.” They did so by personally refusing to take part in the murder of peaceful people, while ordering the men under their command to stand down. Their example breaks the conventional frontier narrative that has come to define the clash between Colonial settlers and Native peoples as one of civilization versus savagery.

This is a theme I’ve previously addressed as a scholar in the fields of American Indian studies and Colonial history, both in my book on the Indian captivity narrative genre, “Buried in Shades of Night,” and more recently in writings on Sand Creek.

The letters of Soule and Cramer

Soule’s noble act of compassion at Sand Creek is humbly conveyed in a letter to his mother included in the Denver Public Library Western History Collections: “I was present at a Massacre of three hundred Indians mostly women and children… It was a horrable scene and I would not let my Company fire.”

Refusing to participate, Soule and the men of Company D of the First Colorado, along with Cramer of Company K, bore witness to the incomprehensible. Chivington’s attack soon descended into a frenzy of killing and mutilation, with soldiers taking scalps and other grisly trophies from the bodies of the dead. Soule was a devoted abolitionist and one dedicated to the rights of all people. He stayed true to his convictions in the face of insults and even a threat of hanging from Chivington the night before at Fort Lyon.

In the following weeks, Soule and Cramer wrote letters to Major Edward “Ned” Wyncoop, the previous commander at Fort Lyon who had dealt fairly with the Cheyenne and Arapaho. Both harshly condemned the massacre and the soldiers who carried it out. Soule’s letter details a meeting among officers on the eve of the attack in which he fervently condemned Chivington’s plans asserting “that any man who would take part in the murders, knowing the circumstances as we did, was a low lived cowardly son of a bitch.”

Describing the attack to Wynkoop, Soule wrote, “I refused to fire and swore that none but a coward would.” His letter goes on to describe the soldiers as “a perfect mob.”

This account is verified by Cramer’s letter. Detailing his own objections to Chivington, whom he describes as coming “like a thief in the dark,” Cramer had stated that he “thought it murder to jump them friendly Indians.” To this charge, Chivington had replied, “Damn any man or men who are in sympathy with them.”

In Soule’s account, he writes, “I tell you Ned it was hard to see little children on their knees have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized.”

While few Americans – especially those living outside of Colorado – may know their names, Soule and Cramer are honored and revered by the ancestors of the people they tried to save. According to David F. Halaas, former Colorado state historian and current historical consultant to the Northern Cheyenne, without their courage in disobeying Chivington’s orders and keeping their men from the massacre, “the descendants probably wouldn’t be around today,” and there would be no one to tell the stories.

The horrific descriptions of Soule and Cramer prompted several official inquiries into the atrocity. Both men also testified before an Army commission in Colorado as witnesses. While the officers and soldiers responsible escaped punishment, their testimony brought widespread condemnation upon Chivington, who defended the massacre for the rest of his life.

These investigations also ended the political career of the Colorado territorial governor, John Evans, who had issued two proclamations calling for violence against Native people of the plains, and for organizing the 3rd Colorado Cavalry Regiment in which Chivington was placed in command.

Sites of reverence and healing

The Cheyenne and Arapaho will return to Denver this year to honor their ancestors and remember Soule’s and Cramer’s conscience and humanity. This will be done through an offering of prayers and blessings, along with the performance of honor songs.

Soule’s grave.
Billy J. Stratton, Author provided

On the third and final day of the healing run, they will gather for a sunrise ceremony at Soule’s flower-adorned grave at Denver’s Riverside Cemetery. The participants will then continue on to 15th and Lawrence Street in downtown Denver. There, a plaque is mounted on the side of an office building at the place where Soule was murdered on April 23, 1865. His death, for which no one was ever brought to justice, occurred only two months after he testified against Chivington before the Army commission.

Over the last few decades, Soule’s grave and place of death have been transformed into sacred sites of remembrance within a violent and traumatic frontier past.

The catastrophe of the Sand Creek Massacre is recognized by historians as among the most infamous events in the annals of the American West. Even now, it is the only massacre of Native people recognized as such by the U.S. government, with the land itself preserved as a national historic site for learning and reflection.

In Cheyenne and Arapaho stories, this event remains an ever-present trauma and persists as part of their cultural memory. In addition, it encapsulates the stark moment of betrayal against their ancestors and the theft of their lands.

The story of Soule’s and Cramer’s actions and their courage to say “no” to the killing of peaceful people at Sand Creek is an important chapter of U.S. history. I maintain that it is people like Soule and Cramer who truly deserve to be remembered through monuments and memorials, and can be a source for a different kind of historical understanding: one based not on abstract notions of justice and right, but upon the courage and integrity it takes to breathe life into those virtues.

On the 152nd anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, as we honor the memory of those who died at Sand Creek, may we also be inspired by the heroic actions of these two American soldiers.

The Conversation

Billy J. Stratton, Professor of Native American studies/contemporary American literature, University of Denver

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Why a fractured nation needs to remember King Jr.’s message of love

Martin Luther King Jr.‘s message of love matters today. Tami Chappell/Reuters
Martin Luther King Jr.‘s message of love matters today. Tami Chappell/Reuters

Joshua F.J. Inwood, Pennsylvania State University

The 2016 election campaign was arguably the most divisive in a generation. And even after Donald Trump’s victory, people are struggling to understand what his presidency will mean for the country. This is especially true for many minority groups who were singled out during the election campaign and have since experienced discrimination and threats of violence.

Yet, as geography teaches us, this is not the first time America has faced such a crisis – this divisiveness has a much longer history. I study the civil rights movement and the field of peace geographies. We faced similar crises related to the broader civil rights struggles in the 1960s.

So, what can be draw from the past that is relevant to the present? Specifically, how can we heal a nation that is divided along race, class and political lines?

As outlined by Martin Luther King Jr., the role of love, in engaging individuals and communities in conflict, is crucial today. By recalling King’s vision, I believe, we can have opportunities to build a more inclusive and just community that does not retreat from diversity but draws strength from it.

King’s vision

King spent his public career working towards ending segregation and fighting racial discrimination. For many people the pinnacle of this work occurred in Washington, DC when he delivered his famous “I have a dream speech.”

Less well known and often ignored is his later work on ending poverty and his fight on behalf of poor people. In fact when King was assassinated in Memphis he was in the midst of building towards a national march on Washington DC that would have brought tens of thousands of economically disenfranchised people to advocate for policies that would ameliorate poverty. This effort – known as the “Poor Peoples Campaign” –– aimed to dramatically shift national priorities to the health and welfare of working peoples.

Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at interfaith civil rights rally, San Francisco Cow Palace, June 30, 1964.
George Conklin, CC BY-NC-ND

Scholars such as Derek Alderman, Paul Kingsbury, and Owen Dwyer have emphasized King’s work on behalf of civil rights in a twenty-first century context. They argue the Civil Rights Movement in general, and King’s work specifically holds lessons for social justice organizing and classroom pedagogy in that it helps students and the broader public see how the struggle for civil rights continues.

These arguments build on sociologist Michael Eric Dyson who also argues we need to reevaluate King’s work as it reveals the possibility to build a 21st Century social movement that can address continued inequality and poverty through direct action and social protest.

Idea of love

King focused on the role of love as key to building healthy communities and the ways in which love can and should be at the center of our social interactions.

King’s final book, Where do we go From Here: Chaos or Community? published in the year before his assassination, provides us with his most expansive vision of an inclusive, diverse and economically equitable US nation. For King, love is a key part of creating communities that work for everyone and not just the few at the expense of the many.

Love was not a mushy or easily dismissed emotion, but was central to the kind of community he envisioned. King made distinctions between three forms of love which are key to the human experience.

The three forms of love are “Eros,” “Philia” and most importantly “Agape.” For King, Eros is a form of love that is most closely associated with desire while Philia is often the love that is experienced between very good friends or family. These visions are different from Agape.

Agape, which was at the center of the movement he was building, was the moral imperative to engage with one’s oppressor in a way that showed the oppressor the ways their actions dehumanize and detract from society. He said,

“In speaking of love we are not referring to some sentimental emotion. It would be nonsense to urge men to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense[…] When we speak of loving those who oppose us we speak of a love which is expressed in the Greek word Agape. Agape means nothing sentimental or affectionate; it means understanding, redeeming goodwill for all [sic] men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. ”

King further defined agape when he argued at the University of California at Berkeley that the concept of agape “stands at the center of the movement we are to carry on in the Southland.” It was a love that demanded that one stand up for oneself and tells those who oppress that what they were doing was wrong.

Why this matters now

In the face of violence directed at minority communities and in a deepening political divisions in the country, King’s words and philosophy are perhaps more critical for us today than at any point in the recent past.

King’s vision can help bring communities together.
Noah Berger/Reuters

As King noted all persons exist in an interrelated community and all are dependent on each other. By connecting love to community, King argued there were opportunities to build a more just and economically sustainable society which respected difference. As he said,

“Agape is a willingness to go to any length to restore community… Therefore if I respond to hate with a reciprocal hate I do nothing but intensify the cleavages of a broken community.”

King outlined a vision in which we are compelled to work towards making our communities inclusive. They reflect the broad values of equality and democracy. Through an engagement with one another as its foundation, agape provides opportunities to work towards common goals.

Building a community today

At a time, when the nation feels so divided, there is a need to bring back King’s vision of agape-fueled community building. That would move us past simply seeing the other side as being wholly motivated by hate. The reality is that economic changes since the Great Recession have wrought tremendous pain and suffering in many quarters of the United States. Many Trump supporters were motivated by a desperate need to change the system.

However, simply dismissing the concerns voiced by many that Trump’s election has empowered racists and misogynists would be wrong as well.

These cleavages that we see will most likely intensify as Donald Trump prepares to take the oath of office as the 45th President of the United States.

To bridge these divisions is to begin a difficult conversation about where we are as a nation and where we want to go. Engaging in a conversation through agape signals a willingness to restore broken communities and to approach difference with an open mind.

It also exposes and rejects those that are using race and racism and fears of the “other” to advance a political agenda that intensifies the divisions in our nation.

The Conversation

Joshua F.J. Inwood, Associate Professor of Geography Senior Research Associate in the Rock Ethics Institute, Pennsylvania State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

#BlackHistoryMonth-A. Philip Randolph

Asa_Philip_Randolph_NYWTS

Asa[1] Philip Randolph (April 15, 1889 – May 16, 1979) was a leader in the African-American civil-rights movement, the American labor movement, and socialist political parties.

He organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly African American labor union. In the early civil-rights movement, Randolph led the March on Washington Movement, which convinced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issueExecutive Order 8802 in 1941, banning discrimination in the defense industries duringWorld War II. The group then successfully pressured President Harry S. Truman to issueExecutive Order 9981 in 1948, ending segregation in the armed services.

In 1963, Randolph was the head of the March on Washington, which was organized by Bayard Rustin, at which Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech. Randolph inspired the Freedom budget, sometimes called the “Randolph Freedom budget”, which aimed to deal with the economic problems facing the black community.

Randolph had a significant impact on the Civil Rights Movement from the 1930s onward. TheMontgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama was directed by E.D. Nixon, who had been a member of the BSCP and was influenced by Randolph’s methods of non-violent confrontation.[3]Nationwide, the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s used tactics pioneered by Randolph, such as encouraging African-Americans to vote as a bloc, mass voter registration, and training activists for non-violent direct action.[24]

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#BlackHistoryMonth-Alice Dunbar Nelson

220px-Alice_Dunbar-Nelson

Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar Nelson (July 19, 1875 – September 11, 1935) was an American poet, journalist and political activist. Among the first generation born free in the South after the Civil War, she was one of the prominent African Americans involved in the artistic flourishing of the Great Poetic movement of ’89. Her first husband was the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar; she then married physician Henry A. Callis; and last married Robert J. Nelson, a millionaire banker.

The rhetorical context of Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s writing includes subject, purpose, audience, and occasion. “Dunbar-Nelson’s writings addressed the issues that confronted African-Americans and women of her time”.[8] In essays such as “Negro Women in War Work” (1919), “Politics in Delaware” (1924), “Hysteria,” and “Is It Time for Negro Colleges in the South to Be Put in the Hands of Negro Teachers?” Dunbar-Nelson explored the role of black women in the workforce, education, and the antilynching movement.[8] The examples demonstrate a social activist role in her life. Dunbar-Nelson’s writings express her belief of equality between the races and between men and women. She believed that African-Americans should have equal access to the educational institution, jobs, healthcare, transportation and other constitutionally granted rights.[9]

Much of Dunbar-Nelson’s writing was about the color line – both white and black color lines. In an autobiographical piece entitled Brass Ankles, Dunbar-Nelson discusses the difficulties she faced growing up mixed race in Louisiana. She recalls the isolation felt as a child, and the sensation of not belonging to or being accepted by either race. She said as a child she was called a “half white nigger” and that while adults were not as vicious with their name-calling, they were also not accepting of her. Both black and white individuals rejected her for being “too white.” White coworkers didn’t think she was racial enough and black coworkers did not think she was dark enough to work with her own people.[8] She wrote that being multiracial was hard because “the ‘yaller niggers,’ the ‘Brass Ankles’ must bear the hatred of their own and the prejudice of the white race” (Brass Ankles). Much of Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s writing was rejected because she wrote about the color line, oppression, and themes of racism. Few mainstream publications would publish her writing because it was not marketable. Dunbar-Nelson was able to publish her writing, however, when the themes of racism and oppression were more subtle.

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#BlackHistoryMonth-James Bevel

jamesbevel

James Luther Bevel (October 19, 1936 – December 19, 2008) was a leader of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement who, as the Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) initiated, strategized, directed, and developed SCLC’s three major successes of the era:[1][2] the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement, and the 1966 Chicago Open Housing Movement.[3] Rev. Bevel also called for and initially organized the 1963 March on Washington[4] and initiated and strategized the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, which, in addition to Bevel’s Birmingham Children’s Crusade, were SCLC’s main public gatherings of the era. For Bevel’s work in the 1960s he has been referred to as the “Father of Voting Rights”,[5] the “Strategist and Architect of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement”,[6] and as half of the Bevel/King first-tier team that formulated and communicated the actions, issues, and dialogues which created the historical changes of the 1960s civil rights era.[7][8]

Prior to his time with SCLC, Bevel worked in the Nashville Student Movement, where he participated in the 1960 Nashville Lunch-Counter Sit-Ins, directed the 1961 Open Theater Movement, chose the riders for the 1961 Nashville Student Movement continuation of the Freedom Rides, and initiated and directed theMississippi Voting Rights Movement in 1961 and ’62. Later, in 1967, Bevel took a leave from SCLC to direct the Anti-Vietnam War Movement when he was named the leader of the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam where he initiated and called the 1967 March on the United Nations.[7][8] His last major action was as co-initiator of the 1995 Day of Atonement/Million Man March.

In 2005 Bevel was accused of incest by one of his daughters. He went to trial in April 2008 and, although he denied the charge, Bevel was convicted of unlawful fornication and sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $50,000. After serving seven months he was freed awaiting an appeal, and died of pancreatic cancer in December 2008. He was buried in a 17-foot canoe in a small country cemetery in Eutaw, Alabama.

Source: Wikipedia

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#BlackHistoryMonth-Willie B. Barrow

barrow_young

Willie Barrow was raised in rural Texas on a farm with her six siblings. Her father was a local pastor. She was called to ministry when she was sixteen. While studying ministry in Portland, Oregon, she organized the first African American Church of God. She was also a welder in a shipyard, where she met Clyde Barrow, whom she married, and where she became involved in the labor movement.

From Portland, Clyde and Willie Barrow moved to Chicago in 1943, where she studied at the Moody Bible Institute and the Central Conservatory of Music, in addition to her work with the Church of God. In the 1950s she became active in the civil rights movement, working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a field organizer for marches and demonstrations.

Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH and Jesse Jackson:

Willie Barrow helped found Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, which grew into Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity, later People United to Serve Humanity). Barrow was a key “lieutenant” of Jesse Jackson in his Chicago-based activism. They worked on many projects and in many organizations together, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a long association with Operation PUSH. When Jackson ran for president for the 1984 election, she served as his campaign manager.

Willie Barrow was the first woman to serve as a national vice president of Operation PUSH, and in 1986, became the president of Operation PUSH, retiring in 1989. She served as a co-chairperson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition (RPC), and in 2009 was the RPC chairperson, emeritus.

From Portland, Clyde and Willie Barrow moved to Chicago in 1943, where she studied at the Moody Bible Institute and the Central Conservatory of Music, in addition to her work with the Church of God. In the 1950s she became active in the civil rights movement, working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a field organizer for marches and demonstrations.

Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH and Jesse Jackson:

Willie Barrow helped found Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, which grew into Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity, later People United to Serve Humanity). Barrow was a key “lieutenant” of Jesse Jackson in his Chicago-based activism. They worked on many projects and in many organizations together, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a long association with Operation PUSH. When Jackson ran for president for the 1984 election, she served as his campaign manager.

Willie Barrow was the first woman to serve as a national vice president of Operation PUSH, and in 1986, became the president of Operation PUSH, retiring in 1989. She served as a co-chairperson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition (RPC), and in 2009 was the RPC chairperson, emeritus.

More Activism:

Willie Barrow was also active in working against US involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1968, Barrow and two others led a delegation to North Vietnam.

Willie Barrow was also active in the National Urban League and the NCNW. She’s also been involved in women’s issues and in gay and lesbian issues. In 1983, her adopted son, Keith, died of HIV/AIDS, and Willie Barrow made one of the first AIDS quilts.

Source: About.com/Education

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#BlackHistoryMonth- Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall

620-women-civil-rights-prathia-hall.imgcache.rev1391798060618.web

Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall (1940–2002) was a leader and activist in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, womanist theologian, and ethicist. She likely was the key inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

Hall was raised in Philadelphia, the daughter of founders of Mount Sharon Baptist Church, an inner-city church, in an under-served area of Philadelphia.[1] Her father was a Baptist preacher who regarded her as his successor.[1] Her leadership potential was recognized early, and she credited many groups, such as the National Conference of Christians and Jews for singling her out and helping her to develop.[1] Hall attended predominantly white schools until college, but at the age of five, on a train ride South to visit her grandparents, she and her sisters were forced to sit in a car behind the engine.[2] This was her first experience of dehumanizing discrimination.

Hall preached at the Albany Movement’s first anniversary program along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who praised her oratorical skills. She spoke of her dream for the future at the burned down site of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church where the movement had its mass meetings in Terrell County. Hall often repeated the phrase “I have a dream” during her speeches, which some say became the inspiration to King for his famous “I Have a Dream”speech.[4] After Southwest Georgia, she worked in Selma, Alabama.[1] She worked for SNCC until 1966.

Hall later decided to focus her attention on her academic interests. She earned a Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. In 1978 Hall began serving as pastor at the Mt. Sharon Baptist Church in Philadelphia, driving down from Princeton every weekend, although she endured enormous back pain from an old accident.[1] She also became one of the first women ordained in the American Baptist Association. Hall later joined the faculty at the Boston University School of Theology, holding the Martin Luther King Chair in Social Ethics.[5] Her work focused on womanist theology and ethics.

She then became a visiting scholar at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. She later joined the faculty at United Theological Seminaryin Dayton, Ohio, eventually becoming dean of the seminary and director of the school’s Harriet Miller Women’s Center.[6] She died in Boston in 2002 after a long illness, at the age of 62.

“Prathia Hall is one of the platform speakers I would prefer not to follow.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

Source: Wikipedia

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