BLACK KETTLE

(Moketavato)

 

Cheyenne Chief

1800-1868

 

Born in the Black Hills, Black Kettle became a leading chief of the Southern Cheyennes before his people were massacred at Sand Creek in 1864.

Four years later, he was killed in the Washita massacre by George Armstrong Custer's Seventh Cavalty.

The Southern Cheyennes and white settlers in the Denver area got along rather peacefully during their early years of contact.

A village of Arapahoes camped in the heart of Denver around 1860. In 1861, Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne treaty chiefs were pressured into signing an agreement with the federal government without consulting their nations as a whole.

Resentment rose among the Indians as more settlers and gold seekers moved in, further encroaching on hunting lands.

During spring 1864, Reverend J. M. Chivington, an officer of the Colorado volunteer militia, reported that Cheyennes had stolen a number of cattle. The report may have been faked as an excuse to retaliate - which he did, attacking Cheyenne camps and indiscriminately killing women and children as well as warriors.

The governor of Colorado then persuaded the Cheyennes to settle at Sand Creek.

On November 29, 1864, again acting on his own volition, Chivington raised between six hundred and one thousand men, mostly volunteers seething to drive the Indians out, and mounted a surprise attack on the village.

Chivington shouted, " Kill and scalp all the big and little;nits make for lice."

As Black Kettle, the ranking chief in the village, hoisted a white flag and a U.S. flag, Chivington's men tore the Indians apart with sadistic enthusiasm.

Black Kettle's wife was shot nine times but somehow survived, while he escaped.

Another leader of the village, White Antelope, stood in front of his lodge and sang his death song, which included the often quoted passage "Nothing lives long, except the earth and the mountains."

The elderly White Antelope was unceremoniously shot down, along with at least three hundred other native men, women, and children.

Chivington's detachment never accurately counted the casualties.

The Volunteers severed several Indians' limbs and heads, took them to Denver, and charged people admission to a theater for a glimpse of the bloody body parts.

The behavior of Chivington and his volunteers was so reprehensible to famed scout Kit Carson that he called Chivington's men cowardly dogs.

The Cheyennes retaliated with fire and fury, killing several hundred settlers during the next three years and capturing dozens more.

Four years after Chivington's attack, a federal commission concluded that he and his men had acted with a degree of barbarism that even the most brutal of Indians could not match.

The Sand Creek massacre sparked a war on the plains which cost the government $30 million.

Black Kettle tried to restore the peace again, figuring that his people would not survive any other way.

In summer 1868, he and the survivors of the Sand Creek massacre moved west to the Washita Valley.

On November 27, 1868, they were attacked again by the Seventh Cavalry troops with orders to raze the village, hang all the men, and take women and children captive.

These troops were under the command of General George Armstrong Custer, in his first campaign of the Indian wars.

Between 40 and 110 Indians were killed, some in a very gruesome fashion.

Though Arapahoes, Comanches, and Kiowas came to the rescue of the Cheyennes, forcing Custer and his troops to withdraw before they had fully carried out the assigned extermination, it was too late for Black Kettle, who was found among the dead.