Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Battle for Native American Identity

By David Hurst Thomas | Go to book overview

6.
THE GREAT AMERICAN SKULL WARS

The dead have no rights. -- Thomas Jefferson

BY 1864, the tensions between the white settlers flooding into Colorado and the Cheyenne Indians, whose land it was, had spilled over into the Denver newspapers. A front-page editorial urged "extermination of the red devils" and encouraged the local citizenry to "take a few months off and dedicate the time to wiping out the Indians." Disparaging the ongoing treaty negotiations with the Cheyenne, Major John Chivington, Methodist minister and Civil War hero, proposed to his church deacons that "the Cheyennes will have to be roundly whipped--or completely wiped out--before they will be quiet. If any of them are caught in your vicinity kill them. . . . It is simply not possible for Indians to obey or even understand any treaty. I am fully satisfied, gentlemen, that to kill them is the only way we will ever have peace and quiet in Colorado."

On an icy November morning, Chivington led a regiment of Colorado Volunteers against the unsuspecting Cheyenne villages of Black Kettle and White Antelope at Sand Creek. "Scalps are what we are after," he exhorted

-52-

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