Casino operator gives Sand Creek Massacre site to Indians
By Kit Miniclier
Denver Post December 30, 2003
A Colorado gambling entrepreneur has given the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribes
of Oklahoma the deed to the heart of the Sand Creek Massacre site 180
miles southeast of Denver.
But it will literally take another act of Congress, and perhaps the
purchase of more land, before the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic
Site becomes a reality, National Park Service spokesman Rick Frost said
On Nov. 29, 1864, about 700 Colorado militiamen killed more than 163
peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians in a raid on their camp at the
site. Most were women, children and elderly men.
Historians believe the massacre provoked the bloody battles between
Plains Indians and settlers that echoed across the West for years as
Indians sought revenge for what they believed was a determined effort to
The tribes have spent the past three decades trying to establish a
monument at Sand Creek.
Although Congress has already authorized the creation of the monument,
another act is required to place the deeded land in trust before the
National Park Service may legally manage it in cooperation with the
relevant Indian tribes and the Colorado Historical Society.
"We are working hard to make sure this site is online soon because it
tells a part of our national story that people really need to hear,"
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., reached on a motorcycle trip in
Arizona, said Monday he would be happy to sponsor the needed legislation
if requested by the new deed holders.
"I don't anticipate any opposition in Congress," Campbell said, noting
that historically the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes once "occupied and
controlled" what became Colorado from the mountains east to the
present-day borders with Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
"This is kind of a long time coming, but it is poetic justice," said
Campbell, whose tribal ancestors were Cheyenne. "They lost their lands
to white men, and it is a white man's organization that bought the site
back for them."
Campbell has expressed interest in preserving the site since he was a
state lawmaker 20 years ago, but owner William Dawson didn't want to
Campbell said he anticipates an Indian homecoming event at the site this
spring to bless and consecrate it.
The senator won praise from Indian tribes and Western historians for
sponsoring a bill authorizing the historic site in 2000.
The federal government offered Dawson $300,000 for his 1,465-acre ranch,
but the rancher declined. Then Jim Druck, president of Southwest Casino
& Hotel Corp., bought it for $1.5 million in April 2002.
During deed-transfer ceremonies Dec. 19 in Concho, Okla., Druck said he
explained to tribal elders that he is Jewish, and "my people were nearly
wiped out in Germany and Poland before and during World War II."
"I told them I understood their pain and what it means to fight for your
heritage," he said.
The site is intended to keep the memory of "the horror of Sand Creek
alive," he said.
Druck, who operates two casinos for tribes to which he gave the deed, is
negotiating with government officials for a third tribal casino.
A resident of Pine, Druck also owns three casinos in Cripple Creek - the
Gold Rush, Gold Digger and Uncle Sam's.
Asked what he gains by turning the $1.5 million deed over to the tribes,
he said: "A longer, stronger, better relationship and a real good
feeling. It isn't often in a person's life one gets to do something that
means so much to so many."
The Colorado Historical Society has provided $600,000 to help buy land
adjacent to the 1,465-acre Dawson site, helping the Park Service acquire
a total of 920 acres from several of the 17 private owners.
Frost of the Park Service declined to speculate on the need for more
land to meet the requirements of the original congressional act.
Eads, a farming community of 747 people about 16 miles west of the site,
expects to benefit from an influx of thousands of tourists once the
national monument is established, Mayor Larry Michael said.