I saw the soldiers on horseback spread out along the ridge that cold November morning. My kinsmen and friends formed a village of about five hundred Southern Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho along Sand Creek. Our chiefs Black Kettle, White Antelope, Little Raven, and Left Hand negotiated with the soldiers at Fort Lyon for food, protection, and peace. We believed we were safe until the army rode into the camp, guns drawn. They used rifles and big guns called howitzers to drive my people out of the village. Most of the villagers were elderly, women, or children. The solders did not care. They slaughtered everyone in their path. When the battle ended many hours later, at least 150 members of the tribes were dead. The wounded and injured littered the ground. The next day, I watched from my hiding place as the soldiers returned to desecrate the dead. In my mind, I cried, “Why?”
When our guide and fellow writer, Jeff Campbell, finished the story, I looked down into the valley. The screams were silenced. Aspens swayed in the hot June breeze. Elk grazed on the lush grasses once soaked with the blood of Cheyenne and Arapaho. I was no longer a hunted Indian on November 29, 1864. It was early June in 2010. I gazed across the sacred land and wondered, “Why?”
Jeff is not only a good writer, he’s a storyteller; a member of a society of men and women who keep history and legends alive. No doubt his talent is derived from his Celtic ancestors. He has the knack of making the story live. Like the storytellers of old, Jeff uses his wit and the power of his words to bring the audience into the scene; to make them a part of the tale. Civilizations have revered their bards. Long before the written word was common place, the storyteller, the bards, relayed news, legends, and satire. The common folk loved and welcomed the tale tellers. The powerful despised and persecuted them. But they have survived despite books, television, movies, and the internet.
Jeff is a former teacher and coach. He served as a special investigator for the state of New Mexico. He dedicated himself to researching the Sand Creek Massacre and verifying the site. He viewed Sand Creek as a crime scene and followed the leads to a logical conclusion. You can hear Jeff Campbell speak at the Frontiers in Writing Let’s Write weekend June 29-30. His topics include researching, perfect crimes and police procedure for mystery writers. Visit panhandleprowriters.org for conference details and registration information. We look forward to seeing you in Amarillo.