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Remembering the Sand Creek Massacre

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Abi O'Neal

Associate Director of Marketing & Communications

A Letter from Dr. Christine A. Nelson

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It is with gratitude and hope that we share a letter written by Dr. Christine A. Nelson (Assistant Professor in Higher Education). Each day, we collectively strive to identify ways to challenge barriers to equity, recognize the often-challenging truths of marginalization, and find paths towards a more just future. As Dr. Nelson reminds us in the following, it is not enough to simply acknowledge a truth. We must - if we are to continue to make progress towards right – honestly reflect on events of the past and present.

We sincerely thank Dr. Nelson for her honest, thoughtful, and necessary letter. We hope that you will explore the resources that she has provided. We also hope that we can, collectively, show honor and reverence to those slain in the Sand Creek Massacre and similar atrocities through our continued commitments to learn together, make lasting positive impacts in all communities, and work towards a better tomorrow.

Greetings MCE Community,

My name is Christine Angela Nelson. I am K’awaika and Diné. I am from the Shaasrk’a (Big Roadrunner Clan/Maternal Clan) and born for the Naasht’ézhí Dine’é (Zuni Clan/Paternal Clan). My maternal grandfather’s clan is Bit’ahnii (Folded Arms Clan) and my paternal grandfather’s clan is Honágháahnii (One Walks Around You Clan). I currently live, learn, love, and work in the greater area currently called Denver. I fully recognize that I am occupying lands that reside outside of my tribes’ traditional homelands.

As an Indigenous assistant professor in the Higher Education Department, I continue to interrogate how the University of Denver, as an institution of higher education, perpetuates and benefits from the displacement and erasure of the over 50 Indigenous communities who have maintained a connection to the lands we currently call Colorado and Denver. 

Today marks a day of remembrance and reconciliation for the Sand Creek Massacre. “On November 29th, 1864, just two weeks after the Colorado Seminary (now called University of Denver) opened its doors, an infamous event that became known as the Sand Creek Massacre occurred, resulting in the deaths of an estimated two hundred peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho people who believed they were safely camped under protection of the American flag” (John Evans Report, 2014, pg. v). A DU report prepared in 2014 concludes that John Evans, founder of the University of Denver and of Northwestern University of Illinois, was culpable for the Sand Creek Massacre. As a DUHigherEd community, we live, learn, and work at an institution with a complicated history of settler colonial violence. Such settler colonial violence continues to be perpetuated through the use of the Pioneer moniker and DU Indigenous students continuing to face hostility for their mere presence. To learn more, please read Grace Carson’s (Diné/Chicana & Former DU Clarion Execute Editor, DU Indigenous Alumna) 2019 4-part series on DU While Native

As we strive to reconcile our complacency and complicity in the ongoing settler colonial project, I kindly encourage you to reflect on this day of loss and review the John Evans Report. Here is the link to the portfolio site: If you are available, I encourage you to attend the Sand Creek Massacre Candlelight Vigil, hosted by the Denver Public Library. The event begins today (November 29th at 6pm).

I send this letter with much regard to the descendant tribes of the Cheyenne and Arapaho.


Ahéhee’ / Da’wa’eh (thank you),



Please note that minor changes to Dr. Christine A. Nelson's original letter have been made in order to improve links.