Fort Lyon, 1864
Black Kettle Attempts Peace
To tame a savage you must tie him down to the soil. You must make him understand the value of property and the benefits of its separate ownership.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior, 1851
One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk.
One-Eye and Eagle Head, messengers from Black Kettle, approach Fort Lyon. Three soldiers stop them and take firing positions. Quickly the two Cheyenne make hand signals of peace and show a letter from Black Kettle. The soldiers take them prisoner and turn them over to Major Edward W. Wynkoop. In his mid-twenties, with only one battle against the confederates under his belt, he is both afraid and suspicious. The letter says that Black Kettle wants the soldiers to come out to Smoky Hill camp and guide the two thousand Cheyenne into the reservation. Suspecting a trap, Wynkoop delays a decision. Finally he decides to go.
Releasing the two prisoners, he tells them they are both guides and hostages. At the first sign of treachery from your people, I will kill you.
The Cheyenne do not break their word. If they do so I should not care to live longer, replies One-Eye.
On the march Wynkoop has the opportunity to have long conversations with the two Cheyenne. Later he writes: I felt myself in the presence of superior beings; and these were the representatives of a race that I had heretofore looked upon without exception as being cruel, treacherous, and bloodthirsty, without feeling of affection for friend or kindred.
Black Kettle and the other chiefs hold a council with Wynkoop, telling him of the raids committed against their people. Wynkoop promises to do everything possible to stop the fighting and takes the chiefs to Denver to meet the governor of the Colorado territory and Colonel Chivington.
At Denver, Governor Evans privately tells Wynkoop, I want no peace till the Indians suffer more. But what shall I do with the Third Colorado Regiment if I make peace? They have been raised to kill Indians and they must kill Indians. Unknown to Wynkoop was Colonel Chivington’s recent order to his soldiers: Kill all the Indians you come across.
Because of his friendly attitude toward the indigenous U.S. military officials replace Major Wynkoop with Major Scott Anthony as the commander of Fort Lyon.
In late November, Colonel Chivington and his troops ride into Fort Lyon. In the officers’ quarters, Anthony greets him warmly and Chivington talks of collecting scalps and wading in gore. Anthony is pleased, since he has been waiting for an opportunity to pitch into them.
The next day Lieutenant Cramer and a few others protest going out to Black Kettle’s peaceful camp where their safety has been guaranteed. It would be murder in every sense of the word.
Chivington becomes violent, angrily slams his fist close to Lieutenant Cramer’s head, and says, Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! I have come to kill Indians and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heaven to kill them.
On the evening of November 28, Colonel Chivington and seven hundred men head out to the Cheyenne encampment in a horseshoe bend of the Sand Creek.
Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, 56-70