Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Okla., Mont., and Wyo.
Award Type: Honor Award
On November 29, 1864, U.S. military troops attacked a peaceful encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho along Sand Creek in what is today southeastern Colorado. More than 150 Native Americans were killed in the attack, many of them women, children and the elderly. Nearly four years later, Lt. Col. George A. Custer led a surprise dawn raid on a sleeping Southern Cheyenne encampment along the Washita River in western Oklahoma.
Today, more than 140 years after the carnage, both the Sand Creek Massacre Site and the Washita Battlefield are National Historic Sites thanks in large measure to the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe members who would not let their history be forgotten. Working closely with the National Park Service and other partners, the tribes participated in every phase of development of the National Historic Sites – from site investigation to the design of interpretive centers and exhibits. The oral histories provided by tribal descendants played a critical role in identifying natural and cultural resources and key battlefield locations.
In addition to their efforts at these two places, the tribes have been actively working to safeguard their history at Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site in Colorado, a reconstructed 1840s fur trading post of considerable significance to the tribes. Here, the Cheyenne and Arapaho provide ongoing consultation and assistance ranging from site interpretation to curatorial care of artifacts and the interment of human remains.
"At these historic sites in the American Plains members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes are helping make sure the telling of history is clear and accurate—even when it isn't pretty," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "The tribes should be commended for their foresight and perseverance in heritage preservation, not only for the good of the few, but on behalf of the many."
Along with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Okla., Mont. and Wyo., co-recipients honored are: National Park Service; Steve Brady; Otto Braided Hair; Ben and Gail Ridgely; Lee LoneBear; Richard Williams; Governor Darrell Flyingman; and Chief Gordon Yellowman.