The new statue, passed by Denver representatives on Friday, will memorialize the 1864 Sand Creek massacre, where US Army soldiers struck and destroyed a village of Cheyenne and Arapaho people in southeastern Colorado.
The Capitol Building Advisory Committee voted 7-2 to pass the new statue after hearing from descendants of some of the hundreds of people, mostly women and children, slaughtered at Sand Creek.
“They were wiped out,” Otto Braided Hair, of the Northern Cheyenne, told the committee. “Their voices are no longer heard. Their wishes and concerns were no longer heard. Those are the people we speak for.”
The Civil War statue on the west side of the city’s Capitol building was built by Captain Jack Howland of the First Colorado Cavalry, a regiment that engaged in the Sand Creek Massacre. After the murder of George Floyd in May, many monuments all over the country were toppled and vandalized for their veneration of racist acts. In late May, a Black man taped himself to the statue as an act of denial, adding signs and blocking the tip of his rifle with an orange traffic cone.
The previous statue at the Capitol — torn down throughout the June 25 demonstration — had been raised in 1909 and was meant to honor Colorado soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War, the statue’s base was full of colorful spray-painted phrases such as, “DECOLONIZE,” “DEFUND THE COPS,” and “DENVER WHERE ARE YOU!?” After city officials carted off the bronze soldier, it was transferred to the History Colorado Center.
Artist Harvey Pratt, a Sand Creek descendant, was selected to design the statue by the group One Earth Future — and said the idea for the piece got to him while he was dreaming.
“It’s really about the women,” he said. “The women carry the men in the tribes on their backs.”
A seven-inch prototype of Pratt’s design has been finished, and the state legislature will vote on how large the complete result and its pedestal will be.
Describing the statue, Pratt said that the woman is “in mourning and she’s kneeling… She’s lost her baby and maybe her grandparents.”
“She’s not asking to be spared,” he added. “She’s saying ‘Remember us. don’t forget us. I’ve lost my whole family.'”