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Oklahoma descendant of Colorado massacre ponders forgiveness, healing

Several Oklahomans recently participated in a Sand Creek Massacre Pilgrimage in Eads, Colo, hosted by the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church.
by Carla Hinton Published: July 26, 2014

The atrocities of the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado left an indelible mark on White Buffalo Woman until the day she died.

The 19th-century Cheyenne Indian woman was a member of a peaceful village of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians that was attacked in November 1864 at the order of Col. John Chivington, a Methodist minister-turned-soldier.

Henrietta “Henri” Mann, of Weatherford, White Buffalo Woman’s great-granddaughter, said her great-grandmother never forgot the horror of the slaughter on the Colorado plains.

“She wore her moccasins to bed for fear she would have to flee another massacre,” Mann said.

The Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church recently hosted a pilgrimage to the Sand Creek Massacre site in Eads, Colo.

Mann, 80, was one of the descendants of the massacre’s survivors who participated in the pilgrimage. The Rev. David Wilson, superintendent of the United Methodist Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, also participated.

The National Park Service now maintains the Sand Creek site.

Mann, 80, founder and president of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribal College at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, said she had previously made the trek to the site of the massacre.

Yet she said she felt more saddened than ever this time.

“It was a particularly poignant time for me to realize that so much had taken place,” Mann said.

“I think each one of us had to find a comfort, a peace, and accept the fact that America has some very dark pages in its history.”

The recent pilgrimage was the brainchild of the Rev. Elaine Stanovsky, bishop of the Mountain Sky Area of the United Methodist Church in Colorado.

With much care and planning, Stanovsky helped coordinate the pilgrimage, which brought together 650 Rocky Mountain United Methodist Conference members and guests, including descendants of the massacre’s survivors and American Indian United Methodist church leaders. Thirteen busloads of people made the journey to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site as part of the effort.

“The pilgrimage was one step on a long journey of learning about our history and building healing relationships with Native Americans,” Stanovsky said.

She told those gathered for the observance said it was a fitting way for the United Methodists to mark the 150th anniversary of the massacre.

Stories of horror

Mann said in addition to White Buffalo Woman, another of her great-grandmothers, called Vister, also survived the attack. Vister escaped the slaughter on horseback with her brother.

Mann said Vister was shot in the calf as she fled.

“She was one of the fortunate ones who had a horse to escape the massacre. Unfortunately, 200 people didn’t,” Mann said.

Mann said she has heard horror stories of the atrocities that occurred at Sand Creek. Among them:

A little boy was used as “target practice” by the soldiers and eventually was shot and killled.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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