Descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre victims have filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government, seeking reparations for the 1864 slaughter of their Cheyenne and Arapaho ancestors.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Denver by members of the Sand Creek Massacre Descendants Trust, accuses the government and its agents of lawless behavior and broken promises.
The complaint states that the U.S. Government is responsible for an army that “committed acts of genocide, torture, mutilation, harassment and intimidation” against the band of approximately 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho camped along Sand Creek when they were attacked.
Over 700 U.S. cavalry troops, commanded by Colonel John Chivington, descended on the peaceful encampment at dawn on November 29, 1864, near present-day Eads, CO. The Native Americans had been led to believe that under the terms of the 1861 Treaty of Fort Wise they were in a safe area. Regardless, the troops proceeded to attack the camp, killing an estimated 163 Native Americans — mostly women, children, and the elderly — over the next two hours. Following the massacre, many of the victims’ bodies were desecrated by soldiers seeking to display trophies on their return to Denver.
The lawsuit alleges that while the federal government agreed to pay reparations to the survivors under the Treaty of Little Arkansas, it has yet to fulfill its promise.
The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, naming the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian affairs as defendants.