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Sand Creek Methodist Apology

Apology issued by the United Methodist Church at the
General Conference. It will be published the Book of
Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 1996--
The plenary session of General Conferece supported
the the resolution with a vote of 834 yes and 15 no.


Whereas, the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma have suffered extreme transgressions against them throughout history in America's great westward expansion; and

Whereas, one of the blights on America's past was an event that happened on November 29, 1864, when a Cheyenne village was camped on the banks of the Sand Creek in Colorado. The Cheyenne were led by a chief named Black Kettle, who, during a treaty signing ceremony with the Territory of Colorado, had been given an American flag to fly over his teepee; and

Whereas, Chief Black Kettle had been told that if he flew this flag, his village would be protected from any American aggression because Americans would not fire on anyone under the protection of the U.S. flag; and

Whereas, the First Colorado Cavalry, a unit of Colorado volunteers under the command of Colonel John Chivington, a Methodist lay preacher, led a pre-dawn attack on Black Kettle's village, killing and then mutilating many Cheyenne, mostly helpless and unarmed women and children; and

Whereas, this atrocity, had it been committed in 1995, would have been condemned by all the nations of the world, and those responsible would have been branded and tried as war criminals; and

Whereas, Colonel Chivington not only received commendations for this crime against the Cheyenne people but was honored at his death in October, 1894, as a hero and pioneer that both Coloradans and Methodists looked up to; and

Whereas, Colonel Chivington's funeral, conducted by Rev. Robert McIntyre, pastor of the Trinity Methodist Church, was attended by over 600 Masons and several hundred members of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Colorado Pioneers Association, and the Pioneer Ladies Society, plus survivors of the First Colorado Cavalry; and

Whereas, Colonel Chivington, who had held various pastoral appointments, including a district superintendency, is buried in a cemetery in downtown Denver, Colorado, just minutes from the 1996 General Conference of The United Methodist Church; and

Whereas, The United Methodist Church has held itself up as a champion of ethnic minority causes and prides itself in its ethnically diverse membership; and

Whereas, the United Methodists began their missionary work among the Native American people early in the 1700's and established many Native American mission churches in Oklahoma as early as the 1830's; and

Whereas, The United Methodist Church has established Native American congregations in the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal areas of Clinton, Thomas, Kingfisher, and El Reno, Oklahoma; and

Whereas, the people called Methodists have never apologized to the Cheyenne and Arapaho people for the atrocities committed at Sand Creek, Colorado, by one of their own clergy members, who, although commissioned as an officer of war, was commissioned by the Church as an officer to bring peace and reconciliation to all of God's people; and

Whereas, the Cheyenne and Arapaho still carry deep scars from this genocidal act, which manifest themselves, even today, both socially and spiritually; and

Whereas, we the United Methodist people, who believe in the ministry of reconciliation for all people, must now after 132 years offer a sincere apology to those who have been wronged and further offer a healing service to our Cheyenne and Arapaho brothers and sisters; and

Whereas, this 1996 General Conference will be in session during the Native American Awareness Sunday of April 21, 1996; and

Whereas, to not make ourselves aware of the pain still carried by our Native American brothers and sisters is to diminish the opportunities that Native American Awareness Sunday offers to all of us;

Therefore, be it resolved, that this body of the 1996 General Conference extend to all Cheyenne and Arapaho a hand of reconciliation and ask forgiveness for the death of over 200 persons, mostly women and children, who died in this state where this great conference is being held; and

Be it further resolved, that The United Methodist Church offer at this General Conference a healing service of reconciliation, asking that tribal leaders, elders, and spiritual leaders come and sit with us, pray with us, and bless us; and let us heal the past and offer to one another the gifts with which God (Ma-Hay-O) has blessed each of us, acknowledging that racism is a sin, but also seeing one another as whole people who need one another, as we acknowledge that we also need God.


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