Monday, November 28, 2016

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

This past spring my husband and I took a road trip to SE Colorado to visit The Great Sand Dunes National Park--click here to read that post--and we decided to visit two National Historical sites on our way back home. One was of these sites was the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site located in Kiowa County, near Eads, on the great high plains of Colorado. This site is sacred, controversial, symbolic and a reminder of a national tragedy that happened on November 29, 1864. I was profoundly touched by what I read and saw at this site, and although it is a difficult subject, I thought it would be fitting to show what we saw on the 152 year anniversary as well as to wonder what has the United States learned from its past?

Our drive was very long.  The high plains of Colorado are very vast and very desolate in many areas. The remoteness of the Sand Creek location made me wonder even more why this event happened so long ago.

We passed through dry prairie grasslands, by ranches, and some farms before we passed by the desolate ghost town of Chivington.  This was a landmark that the Sand Creek Massacre site was close by.

When we passed through the gate there was still some drive ahead, with only a few trees visible a small visitor center and some placards describing what happened here. My husband and I and one other man were the only visitors at the time, but a ranger came to meet us to tell us the history of the area and direct us towards the massacre site.

Please click on to enlarge

Along the Big Sandy Creek, about 700 Cheyenne and Arapaho native people were living peacefully at a winter camp in what was then Colorado territory. They believed they were under the protection of the US Army by treaty. Many of the men were away hunting for food, so the camp consisted of mainly old people, women, and children. At dawn on November 29, 1864, approximately 675 U.S. volunteer soldiers, commanded by Colonel John M. Chivington, attacked the sleeping natives with guns and cannons. Black Kettle, one of the peace Chiefs, raised an American flag and white truce flag above his tipi, as he had been promised protection, but he also had to flee. While many managed to escape, about 200 women and children, and the elderly struggled to run in the sandy earth of the dry creek bed.  Some women tried to dig trenches in the creek bed, or in the hollow logs of cottonwood trees to hide their children, but most were mercilessly slaughtered during the eight hours of fighting. During the afternoon, and the next day, the soldiers wandered over the field committing atrocities on the dead, taking native belongings as souvenirs, and burning down the encampment, before departing the scene on December 1, to resume campaigning.

 Please click on to enlarge

A placard on the site explains the events of the massacre.

For many years the Arapaho and Cheyenne people had lived their way of life on the plains of Colorado, but the discovery of gold in 1858 brought many prospectors and then many settlers into the Colorado territory, increasing conflicts and clashes with the natives.  Territorial Governor John Evans wished to apply for statehood and felt the eradication of "hostile natives" would ensure the safety of the new citizens. Sadly, many at the time felt the natives were soulless savages not worthy of the same rights as Christians.

Please click on to enlarge

Chiefs Black Kettle and Left Hand pleaded for peace and an end to violence and were promised this just a couple months before at a counsel in Denver, with Governor Evans, Colonel Chivington, Major Wynkoop, Captain Soule, and other officials. They were told to surrender at Fort Lyons.  Prisoner rations were not enough to sustain them at the fort, so they moved further east to the Sand Creek area where they knew they could hunt for food.

Please click on to enlarge

Captain Silas S. Soule, and Lieutenant Joseph A Cramer, who knew these people had been promised peace, put their military careers and lives at danger by refusing to fire on the peaceful encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek on November 29.  They wrote letters to their former commander Major Edward Wynkoop, describing the horrible atrocities they witnessed. These letters led to an investigation by two congressional committees, and an army commission, which changed history's judgment of Sand Creek from a battle to a massacre of men, women, and children, but charges were never brought against those responsible.  Sadly, Captain Soule was murdered soon after he testified to the commissions.

A placard at the Sand Creek site shows the letter Captain Soule wrote to Major Wynkoop graphically describing the atrocities of the massacre.  For a long time, these letters were displaced but copies resurfaced around the year 2000 to help convince the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to establish the Sand Creek Massacre site as a National Historical site.  You can read the full letter on this government website--click here--scroll down the page. Be warned they are horribly graphic in description.

Today the park preserves approximately 2,400 acres of the massacre site.

The actual creek site is restricted to visitors.

Native Cottonwood trees line the creek where tipi once stood.

Please click on to enlarge

Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members still gather here to pay homage to their ancestors, to heal, and to help educate future generations to the horrors of genocide that still exists around the world

The Sand Creek Massacre is one of the most disgraceful events in American history--a tragedy reflective of its time and place.  As time has marched on, most Americans realize the injustices done to our country's native people, who were trying to protect their way of life from change and destruction.

Every year, for the last 18 years, there has been a Spiritual Healing Walk Run Event that is sponsored by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana, the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming, and the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes (Oklahoma) to honor the victims and survivors of the Sand Creek Massacre and for healing of ancestral homelands.  They run/walk from the Sand Creek Massacre site to Denver over four days, stopping at the memorial plaque for Silas S. Soule located at 15th and Arapaho Ave, in Denver and then walk a mile on to the Colorado State Capital Building for a ceremony.

To watch a video about the Sand Creek Massacre, presented by Rocky Mountain PBS, click on the arrow above or go to this link: YouTube Sand Creek Massacre.  The National Parks Service also has a video about the Sand Creek Massacre Site dedication as a National Historic landmark on this YouTube video link.

As my husband and I drove the 180 miles or so back home to the Denver area, we thought about the sad events that took place 152 years ago at Sand Creek. Unfortunately, events such as this continue to occur in the world and probably will continue in the future as long as humans judge each other by race, nationality, and creed.  There are many lessons to be learned if we hope to see hatred end and peace come to our world. Can we ever hope to see that day?

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thanksgiving Gratitude

This Thursday will be Thanksgiving in the United States, a day most families gather together to give thanks for all their blessings and to enjoy a delicious dinner.  My husband and I feel so fortunate to be living close to our children and grandchildren and to be able to share wonderful occasions with them throughout the year. One of our traditions is to visit a farm's pumpkin patch to enjoy all the wonderful activities there and to choose pumpkins and gourds to decorate our homes for Autumn.

It is fun making these memories with our grandchildren, and their smiles and laughter are our treasure.

We also treasure living in this beautiful state! After living 3/4 of our lives in New York City, which gave us many opportunities throughout our lifetime, we are now grateful for the new experiences we have, and the incredible scenery we see, in our new state of Colorado.

Where we see swirling clouds surrounding high peaks...

....and tall aspen groves lit in orange and yellow leaves like candle flames.

Where snow capped peaks tower over golden fields and deep green pine forests....

...and where there are still areas of vast pristine wilderness...

Where you can climb peaks over 14,000 feet high to touch the sky...

..and where winding trails are almost right outside our door.

We are grateful to live in a place where the Old West still survives...

...and cattle drives are still a part of daily life...

...yet city experiences and culture are still available close by.

To live in a state where we see abundant wildlife...

...and wildflowers galore to enjoy in spring!

We are grateful to live in our beautiful and peaceful valley, where we just had our first snowfall.

On this Thanksgiving we have much to be grateful for...
For Faith, Family and Friends, as well as place.
We are also aware that many do not enjoy all we do
and that we need to share our bounty with those less fortunate, 
to strive for equality and peace in this country, as well in the world,
and to protect and preserve nature, as it is God's gift to all of us.

"Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayers. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good."  ~ Maya Angelou

May all that celebrate this week have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Carousel of Happiness

Current stressful political events in the USA made me think about a person who utilized their personal stress and sadness to do good and to add happiness to the world in a small but valuable way.   
Scott Harrison's  Carousel of Happiness, located at 20 Lakeview Drive, in the Caribou Village Shopping Center, Nederland, Colorado was one such place of happiness for me. This autumn, my husband and I took our three-year-old granddaughter for a ride along the very scenic Peak to Peak Highway (Hwy 119), to enjoy viewing the beautiful fall foliage. We also wanted to treat our granddaughter to a few rides on the Carousel of Happiness, a place I had read about in the Denver Post.

(All photos and photo collages will enlarge for easier viewing when clicked on)

The carousel features 56 hand carved animals on a restored 1910 Looff carousel base. Charles I.D.Looff was one of the great carousel makers of the late 19th and early 20th century. During his lifetime Looff produced carousels for parks all across the nation. In 1910 he delivered one to Saltier Park, just outside Salt Lake City, Utah, and which was later transferred to a state school in Utah when the Saltier went bankrupt. In 1986 the carousel was sold to a collector, who only wanted to keep the hand-carved animals on it. A Nederland resident, Scott Harrison, learned that the empty frame was still standing and available, and with a help of a friend he took it apart and trucked it back to Nederland.

Scott had an idea on what he wanted to do with the carousel base he acquired and spent the next 26 years carving very original carousel animals in his wood shop after his children went to sleep at night.

Although Scott never carved wood before, he started out by carving the rabbit that is now on the sign in front of the carousel (see photo above), and went on to create more than 50 one of a kind whimsical animals. He has stated that it was therapy for him.  When he was a 19-year-old Marine serving in Vietnam, the music from a small music box, that he was given as a gift, evoked in him a peaceful image of a carousel in a mountain meadow. That image calmed him during stressful wartime and during his post-Marine job with Amnesty International, where he often heard stories about the horrible torture of people. He wanted to bring the sense of calm and happiness that his wartime carousel vision had brought to him to his community.

When Scott was finished carving all the animals, the town of Nederland (population of approximately 1500) came together to raise $700,000 to help refurbish the 1910 Looff carousel base and motor and build the carousel a home. A volunteer non-profit organization was also formed, dedicated to spreading joy to all those who ride.

My granddaughter loved her rides on the carousel!   The carousel is accompanied by musical tunes from a 1913 Wurlitzer band organ music, that add to the joy.

My husband and I took turns standing next to our little granddaughter, as she took multiple rides on different animals. It put a smile on all our faces!

The Carousel of Happiness opened in 2010 and has attracted over 250,000 riders since then.  It is fully enclosed and open year round. It is also fully accessible to people with handicaps and is available for rental for birthday parties and special events. Check the website for operating hours.  

Upstairs there is an observation window, a small party room, and a do-it-yourself puppet theater. There is also a  small store that sells toys and gifts, a book about the making of the carousel, as well as an online store.

The Carousel of Happiness was one man's vision and response to the horrors of war, and his job afterward dealing with tragic torture and abuse stories. Its mission was to replace such sadness with joy, and it has done just that for the benefit of many! 

May we all try to bring more joy into the world and make the world a better place, with peace, love, tolerance for all.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Alberta, Canada

On our last day visiting Glacier National Park in Montana, my husband and I drove through the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the West side of the park, to the East side, and then outside the park onto Blackfeet Nation Reservation and then north on US Route 89 towards Canada.  Looming over a portion of the drive was Chief Mountain, or Ninaistako in Blackfeet language, at 9,080 feet (2,768 m). It can be seen for hundreds of miles.

(All photos and photo collages in this post will enlarge if clicked on)

The Blackfeet people have lived near Chief Mountain for millennia, and believe the mountain holds great power and ancient knowledge. If you click on the photo above of the informational placard you can read more about the mountain.

Near this area, we turned from US Route 89 N to MT Highway 17, or Chief Mountain Highway. The roads gave us beautiful views! We were surprised quite a few times by cows from nearby farms and ranches standing next to, or crossing the road.  We made sure to drive carefully.

We passed the Many Glacier parts of Glacier National Park (click here to read my blog post about that area) and then approached the Canadian border crossing where we stopped to show our passports. Highway 17 then turned to Alberta Route 6.

We then entered into Alberta, Canada where the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park is located.

As we approached the park entrance the views were beautiful.

This area is called "where the mountains meet the prairies."

We passed through the park toll booth.  Unfortunately, our US National Parks Pass did not apply for free entrance as it does in the USA, so we had to pay admission.  The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was created by the US and Canada in 1932, and in 1976 it was designated an International Biosphere Reserve. In 1995 it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  The Peace park commemorated the peace and goodwill our two nations share and today Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park use peace and goodwill to work towards shared management in protecting the water, plants, and animals that are found in the shared area of the parks.

We almost immediately saw upper Waterton Lake.....

...where we bought tickets to take a boat ride by the Waterton Shoreline Cruise Company.

We could see the beautiful Prince of Wales Hotel and Restaurant on the hill in the distance--more about the hotel later in this post.

The boat cruises along the shoreline of the beautiful Upper Waterton Lake and crosses the International border to Goat Haunt, Montana.  Waterton Lake is the deepest lake in the Canadian Rockies!

As we sailed away the Prince of Wales Hotel shrank in size. The high mountain next to it is called Bears Hump and there is a trail that leads to the top from the visitors center.

The narrated cruise is about an hour long each way with magnificent views!

We could see quite a few glaciers at the Goat Haunt area.

There was a half hour stop at Goat Haunt--the northern gateway to Glacier National park. We debarked at this beautiful sheltered and commercialized area to take a short hike along the shoreline. and to wade into the cold lake water.

The Waterton Lake bottom was filled with a pretty array of multicolored pebbles--the same as the other lakes within Glacier.

Inside the shelter were some placards about the history of the world's first International Peace Park--please click to enlarge to read.

Click to enlarge to read.

This placard explained that the events of 9-11-01 changed the concept of the International Peace Park borders to make this border crossing, that was once open to all nations, to be only available to US and Canadian citizens--a sad reality to increase national security.

There was also an interactive board where people could leave their ideas on how to be a peacemaker where they live. I found the answers interesting. What would you write?

Back on the boat to return to Canada, we could see the 49th Parallel Canadian/United States border. Canada and the USA have the longest undefended border in the world (5,525 miles/8,892 km.).

The return cruise sailed closer to the eastern side of the lake to see different views.

At one point the boat stopped to allow us to see this unusual shoreline rock formation.

When we went back ashore we were excited to visit the Prince of Wales Hotel.

The hotel was constructed between 1926 and 1927 by the American Great Northern Railway. The hotel is named after the Prince of Wales--later King Edward VIII.  The bellhops wore red tartan plaid kilts and the plaid was also on display in the hotel lobby.

There is a beautiful view of Waterton Lake from the hotel lobby. Tea was in progress and I regretted that I did not make reservations to indulge in it, but I knew we wanted to explore other parts of the park and did not have the time.

The history of the Prince of Wales Hotel--please click to enlarge to read.

This is the view outside the Prince of Wales hotel looking across Waterton Lake south towards Goat Haunt at the far end.

Another view from outside the hotel, looking east.

Unfortunately, we found out scenic Akamina Highway in the park was closed as it suffered serve damage the prior winter and had not yet been repaired. We then drove to Red Rock Canyon, passing beautiful mountain scenery along the way.

We hiked a trail that circumference a portion of Red Rock Canyon, where the layers of red and green colored minerals offered a brilliant contrast to the surrounding lush green surroundings.  We watched visitors enjoying the water from various bridges that crossed over the canyon.

The day was approaching late afternoon so we headed back towards the USA border crossing, passing Chief Mountain again,  and then onto US Route 89 where we re-entered Glacier National Park at the St Mary entrance, and returned west towards our hotel along the Going-to-the-Sun road. It was a very full day, but one filled with many glorious tights and memories we will never forget.

The next morning we checked out of our hotel to drive back to Colorado. This was our last look of Glacier National Park in the distance as we traveled south.  We would love to return one day to see and experience more of the park. We've visited many National Parks over the years, and Glacier has now become one of our favorites. It truly earned it's nickname as the "Crown of the Continent." Thank you for coming along on my blog for the journey!

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