By Eric Gorski
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court on behalf of four Oklahoma-based members of the Sand Creek Massacre Descendants Trust, is the most concrete step taken in decades by descendants long frustrated by politics, inaction and divisions in their ranks.
The complaint accuses the government and its agents of lawless behavior and hollow promises surrounding one of the darkest moments in Colorado history.
At dawn on Nov. 29, 1864, federal soldiers attacked peaceful Indians camped on the ice-encrusted banks of Sand Creek in what is now southeastern Colorado, slaughtering an estimated 163—mostly women, children and the elderly—and desecrating their bodies.
The U.S. government in an 1865 treaty acknowledged wrongdoing and promised reparations of land and cash to survivors and relatives of victims.
The crux of the legal argument going forward will be whether the government ever paid that debt. Descendants claim it has not, while government officials have indicated they will argue otherwise.