Sand Creek National Historic Site created 4-24-07

DENVER (AP) - Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne signed the paperwork Monday to create the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, just days before its official dedication.

The memorial marks the massacre of nearly 160 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians by at least 700 volunteers of a Colorado regiment in an early morning raid on Nov. 29, 1864. Many of those killed in the unprovoked attack were elderly, women and children.

Plans for the historic site in Kiowa County, on the plains 180 miles southeast of Denver, have been in the works for about a decade. Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, had proposed establishing the memorial.

Campbell will join National Park Service Director Mary Bomar, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and descendants of those massacred during a dedication ceremony Saturday.

Col. John Chivington, a lay Methodist minister, led the attack on the village on the banks of Big Sand Creek, a spot the Indians were told to go by the U.S. Cavalry.

Colorado Territorial Gov. John Evans, who authorized the attack, was fired by President Lincoln, and Congress condemned the attack. Chivington and others involved were never punished.

The historic site covers nearly 12,500 acres.