The morning ceremony of the 15th Annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run started with a request. The runners were to stay behind the lead runner who was carrying an eagle staff. That staff belonged to Lee Lone Bear’s, who started the spiritual run in 1999. Lone Bear walked on two years ago.
Kaden Walksnice carried the eagle staff at this year’s run walk. “Carrying the Eagle Staff is a big responsibility and is a difficult task to do, but I have learned that over the years I gained my energy and strength from the other runners, prayers and our ancestors pushing us through the connections of the Eagle Staff,” he wrote on Native Youth Leadership’s web site.
Vanessa Braided Hair, Cheyenne, was one of the young tribal members who ran in the four-day, 173 mile relay during Thanksgiving weekend.
“The main purpose is healing," said Braided Hair to the Daily Camera, “and never forget what our ancestors went through."
On Thanksgiving Day, dozens of runners traveled from Eads, Colorado, through the abandoned town of Chivington and up to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site for prayers and ceremonies. The relay ended on the steps of the Capitol in Denver.
On the Sand Creek Facebook page, Warren Montoya wrote, “This experience was by far, one of the most powerful events of my life. It is hard to explain the depth of feeling, emotion, healing and power that moved through me yesterday morning.”
On November 29, 1864, nearly 375 Cheyenne and Arapahoe were killed or wounded in a surprise attack on their peaceful camp that was led by Col. John Chivington. When the attack came, Cheyenne Leader Black Kettle stood in front of his tipi waiving the American flag and a white flag in a truce. He survived the massacre, but was killed in 1868 at the Battle of Washita River near Cheyenne, Oklahoma.
Next year is the 150th Anniversary of the massacre and the organizers of the run have big plans for 2014, according to Westword.com. This year’s run was coordinated by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana, with support from the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming, and the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
"We are not trained runners, but because of the connections with our ancestors, we don't feel the pain," said Braided Hair, who ran for 15 miles. "It is all about healing and honoring them."