A life of its own: A Fort Chambers “remembrance”?

It’s strange how life works sometimes. A simple, off-hand conversation I had last summer with my friend Tim has now become a “thing.” The conversation itself had to do with Fort Chambers, an obscure local historic site, and led to an idea for a “remembrance” event. But once some important people heard about it, it became more of a “thing” than I expected.

Initially, I created a program for said event, to be held at or near the site of Fort Chambers in Boulder, Colo., and based it on a similar but more involved experience I lead each Memorial Day weekend at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. I have taken all four of my children and many of my close friends, members of my congregation, and others to Eastern Colorado to learn the story of Sand Creek. (Here is a May 2019 blog post I wrote about what Sand Creek has come to mean to me.)

Fort Chambers was a sod structure in Boulder, Colo., where Company D of the Third Colorado Cavalry mustered and trained in the late summer of 1864. Members of Company D were 100-day volunteers who went on to participate in and later be congratulated for both the massacre at Sand Creek and the forced corporate displacement of the Cheyenne and Arapaho nations from this area.

One goal of the remembrance Tim and I conceived of is to point to the formation of the Third Colorado Cavalry and the role played by settler-militia-volunteers of the Boulder Valley, so that those aspects of the Sand Creek story can be acknowledged in a new way.

As a minister, I especially lament the role played in the Sand Creek Massacre by John Chivington, a prominent 19th-century Colorado territorial minister-turned-military commander. I believe today’s church leaders and area churches need to publicly acknowledge and disown Chivington’s heinous acts and legacy.

I myself am a descendant of white settlers who moved to the Boulder Valley in the early 1890s, and I acknowledge that by extension I have personally benefited from the injustices done to the Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples.

While the Nov. 29 anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre is and will remain a sacred date to me, I’m hoping this idea for a Fort Chamber “remembrance” will help:

  • Tell a more complete and accurate version of our collective past,
  • Expand awareness of Sand Creek beyond the end of November each year, and,
  • Lead to further dialogue and “right relationship” between Native and non-Native peoples.

I originally planned to hold a small remembrance event with members of my personal network, and to schedule it for a weekend in September to coincide more closely with the time when the men of Company D were training at Fort Chambers.

But the idea for the remembrance has taken on a life of its own. Several members of the Arapaho and Cheyenne nations, as well as a local branch of the group “Toward Right Relationship,” and several faith communities, have expressed an interest in participating in and/or being present at the remembrance. So the event has been postponed until this spring (date/time still TBD) to make it possible for more folks to attend.

If you’ve read this far, you’re invited to check back on my blog for more details in the coming months and to eventually attend the remembrance if you’re interested. Peace to you in the meantime!

Facing southwest from Monument Hill at Sand Creek. The fence pictured here marks the boundaries of a section of Monument Hill where the remains of Cheyenne and Arapaho people have been put to rest. (Brenda Mehos)
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