Truth Wins! Part 1

By Mike Bowen, co-author, We Found the Lost Sand Creek Site

If you have purchased our book, We Found the Lost Sand Creek Site, you may have noticed a phrase we used when we signed it—Truth Wins! 

The National Park Service was aware of the discovery made by Chuck and Sheri Bowen. NPS Sand Creek representatives were in the Bowens’ home and viewed artifacts. Pictured in front is Chuck’s late brother Scott, Sheri Bowen, Chuck Bowen and Alexa Roberts. Butch Kelley is in the back.

We believe that truth prevails. It’s imperative to get the truth out there. We live in a time where it’s incredibly difficult to decipher what is and isn’t truth. We’re also living in a time where truth is being silenced. 

Our discovery involves arguably the most controversial event in Colorado history. 

The only way to verify information concerning a historic event is through eyewitness accounts. If it’s not documented, the information becomes hearsay and cannot be verified. The other thing needed is physical evidence. Physical evidence will either corroborate or debunk an eyewitness account. 

The traditional Sand Creek massacre story is largely based on hearsay and not eyewitnesses. Some of it is based on oral history that has been constantly changing since 1864. When eyewitnesses are used, information is often cherry-picked. Also, the massacre story is not corroborated by the artifacts. 

This case of artifacts has been displayed at book programs.

It is commonly told that Silas Soule, a soldier at Sand Creek, refused to fight. This narrative comes from a letter he allegedly wrote to his mother and another letter to Major Wynkoop. Under oath, in sworn testimony, he said his concern was crossfire. He never testified that he refused to fight. 

Why is an unverified account like this passed down about Sand Creek? 

The number of Indians killed as its reported today by the National Park Service is also unverified. They have the number at over 260. Two different scouting parties went out and counted 69 dead Indians on the battleground. Other numbers ranged from around 80-100. George Bent had two different numbers, 137 in a letter to Lt. Colonel Sam Tappan dated 3-15-1889, and 163 in a letter to historian George Hyde dated 4-30-1913. These varying numbers came from hearsay. The official count was 69. 

One scouting party was sent out by Major Anthony, commanding officer at Fort Lyon. 

“I sent out a scouting party…They…reported…they had counted 69 dead bodies,” Major Anthony. (Thirty-Eighth Congress, Second Session, Congress of The United States, In The House of Representatives, Jan. 10, 1865). 

The former commanding officer at Fort Lyon, Major Wynkoop, said Captain Booth counted 69 dead. Interestingly, Wynkoop was refuting the claim Colonel Chivington made when he said that between five and six hundred Indians were killed. It’s our belief that Chivington wanted the settlers to feel safe by saying most, of if not all of the Indians were killed, including Black Kettle. However, Black Kettle wasn’t killed at Sand Creek. He was killed four years later at the Battle of the Washita. 

In the spring and summer of 1864, Cheyenne Dog Soldiers were causing havoc along the Platte by raiding wagon trains, driving off cattle, taking white captives and killing white settlers including their little children. 

Where did the NPS get their number of 260+ Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians killed? It’s an academic felony to not cite sources. It likely came from oral history which isn’t credible. 

George Bent got his numbers about forty years after Sand Creek while he worked as an Indian agent. Bent didn’t witness much of what happened at Sand Creek. He said he and many other Indians ran up the creek about 2 ½ miles from the top of the camp to a rifle pit that 19 people got into. We know from artifacts that there were running battle locations. The events at Sand Creek happened over several miles and in multiple directions. 

From our book: 

His (George Bent) number of Indians killed could have been on the high end. Someone may have told him their husband died, another that their brother died, and yet another that their son died, and in fact, they all were talking about the same person. It is uncertain how many Indians were killed at Sand Creek.

We Found the Lost Sand Creek Site

Bent’s two different numbers of Indians killed, 137 and 163, is from oral history, and information can change if it’s not documented. 

Have you ever played the telephone game? One person has a phrase or saying and tells it to the next in line. That person passes it to the next until it gets to the last in line. By the time it gets to the last person, the information is barely recognizable from how it started. And that game is played over a matter of a few minutes. Think about information being passed down over the course of over 40 years for Bent. We’re now 160 years removed from Sand Creek. That’s a very long time for information to change. Bent said 137 died in a letter he wrote in 1889. He said 163 were killed in a letter he wrote in 1913. In just 24 years his number grew by nearly 30. There’s no way a new count was made in 1913 or in 1889. 

Can you imagine how messed up our American history would be if nothing was ever written down? None of it could be verified or trustworthy. Why is Sand Creek the exception? 

With Sand Creek, the information is constantly changing. 

Chuck and Sheri Bowen only used eyewitness accounts to find land descriptions so they could narrow down where to search for artifacts with a metal detector. The eyewitnesses they used included Irving Howbert, a soldier at Sand Creek. His descriptions of the land where they fought were descriptive. Chuck knew the places Howbert was talking about—He grew up on that part of Sand Creek. Howbert mentioned where the creek banks are 200 yards wide. The banks are nowhere near that wide at the National Park Service site. However, there are banks that wide at the Bowen family ranch. 

These are village artifacts Chuck found on the Bowen family ranch, starting over two miles up the creek from the NPS site. No period artifacts have been found below the bluff where the NPS says the event took place.

Soldier accounts are often immediately dismissed because of what has been told about them over the years. Eyewitness accounts of what the land looked like was accurate, so it’s also important to consider what they said about what happened at Sand Creek. 

The name “Sand Creek massacre” comes from the narrative that the soldiers indiscriminately slaughtered Indian women, children and some elderly, and all of the warriors were off hunting. This information is not only unverified, but it’s been debunked. 

George Bent, who was half Cheyenne, lived in Black Kettle’s village. He was a Dog Soldier, also known as a warrior. In his letters he wrote to historians, he informs them about other Dog Soldiers that were in camp and doesn’t mention any off hunting. 

Bent wrote to George Hyde that he was once camped with Northern and Southern Cheyenne on the Powder River and mentioned Indians hunting. 

“Indians that were hunting came running into camp and reported soldiers were coming,” Bent wrote (Bent to Hyde 9-21-1905). 

It’s important to note that Indians were hunting when they were at the Powder River, but they weren’t away from the camp. They were close enough to run back and announce soldiers were coming. 

It makes sense Indians would have stayed close to camp to do any hunting. If they were hunting buffalo, how would they get it back to camp if they were miles away?  The Dog Soldiers/warriors were close by at Sand Creek. Major Anthony testified to seeing over 100 warriors. “…there were in the neighborhood of a hundred men who were fighting us,” Anthony testified. He wouldn’t have seen the entire battlefield since the events stretched over several miles and in different directions. He only saw a portion of what happened. There were likely more than 100 warriors. 

As it relates to slaughtering women, Bent said this: 

“Soldiers could not tell the difference and would have killed the women, taken them for men,” (Bent to Hyde 5-24-1906).

It’s imperative to weigh all of the information and then come to conclusions. People can only come to conclusions based on the information they have available. Our story of discovery has been suppressed and lied about. We believe in freedom of speech and we have a responsibility to tell the truth about this event. 

Now comes the story of the artifacts. They cannot lie. They do not tell multiple conflicting accounts. They tell a complete story. 

The discovery of artifacts has shaped how we now look at the Sand Creek event. We don’t have a dog in this fight. In fact, our views on Sand Creek before the discovery were quite different. 

The artifacts provide the conclusive evidence where events happened and what happened in specific event locations. For example, Chuck and Sheri found a plethora of village artifacts. They were able to document the site of Black Kettle’s village. The oral history account says that the soldiers killed the Indians as they came out of their tipis. Not according to the artifacts. Actually, there was little action in the village. Most Indians fled. This is all cited in our book to eyewitnesses and is corroborated by the artifacts. 

Chuck and Sheri found over 4,000 period artifacts on the Bowen family ranch, starting about two miles up the creek from where the Sand Creek monument sat, what is presently the NPS Sand Creek site. 

That is truly a preponderance of evidence. 

Knowledge is power. 

They even found pieces that could only be from that event. What did they find? 

The massacre story was initially used as a political tool to attack Colonel Chivington. It’s now being used to destroy patriotism. What does this mean? We’ll dive into that in part two. 

See Truth Wins part two next week to learn more about the artifacts and the true story they tell.  

Learn more about Chuck and Sheri Bowen’s Sand Creek discovery and our book on this website. 

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