Courtesy National Park Service
Ellen and Arthur Brady are shown at their home on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana. They were in the Cheyenne camp along Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado at the time of the massacre in 1864 of Cheyenne and Arapaho people.

Government Seeks to End Claims from 1864’s Sand Creek Massacre

Carol Berry


Sand Creek Massacre descendants will not receive further reparations or an investigation of charges of trust funds mismanagement if the federal government has its way.

Terming the massacre on November 29, 1864 “a tragedy and a disgrace,” the Department of Justice nevertheless said “nothing, not even something as egregious as the Sand Creek Massacre, is a warrant for eternal litigation.”

The massacre occurred when United States Army cavalry troops killed and mutilated more than 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho people, mostly the elderly, women and children, who had been assured safety under U.S. and white flags at a camp on Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado.

Fundamentally, the government contends in attempting to dismiss massacre descendants’ claims, it did not waive sovereign immunity against the complainants’ “essential grievance—that the United States did not honor treaty obligations.”

The motion to dismiss was filed by the government in the year before a major 150 Sand Creek Massacre commemoration,

Homer Flute, described as a Principal for the Sand Creek Massacre Descendants Fund, Robert Simpson Jr., Thompson Flute Jr., and Dorothy Wood, were those whose claims to reparations and an investigation of fiscal mismanagement were under fire and the subject of the government’s motion to dismiss.

The government’s 50-page petition in Colorado federal district court cited the Treaty of Little Arkansas of 1865 as having been annulled by the 1867 Treaty of Medicine Lodge Creek. It noted earlier reparations-related actions in 1861, 1929, 1944, 1951, 1958, 196l, 1968 and Cobell in 1996.

The four massacre descendants cited more than 100 unsuccessful attempts by government fiscal agencies to account for the resources cited in the Treaty of Little Arkansas.

The current government argument said Cobell v.Salazar et al. didn’t apply because any trust –related funds were waived and released under that claim, and no treaty or other federal statute “remotely suggests that Congress intended to create a trust or assume the responsibility of trustee” to victims or descendants.

The descendants “cannot identify one reparations dollar that has ever been ‘held in trust,’” the government argued and also said that the two-year statute of limitations on federal damage claims had long since run out.

Among earlier reparations by the federal government were some land tracts, clothing, contested per capita payments and, later, 30-year allocations of $20,000 to the government for necessary tribal supplies. A larger settlement was made in 1965, but it was diminished by the amount of prior government expenditures.