Gravel Mining Puts Kiowa Sacred Place in Peril

Brian Daffron, Indian Country Today Media Network

The Kiowa Tribe has gathered cedar for ceremonies and prayed on Longhorn Mountain south of Gotebo, Oklahoma for generations. That practice is in serious jeopardy as efforts to mine gravel out of the mountain are scheduled to begin by summer’s end, turning generations of sacred usage into rubble.

“This is where we always come,” said tribal historian Phil Dupoint. “This is where our elders used to come. Maybe they were searching for some kind of power… They would go to Longhorn and different places in the area.”

Dupoint says the cedar gathered from the area has a unique scent, different from any other cedar in the United States and Canada. He said medicine people in the Kiowa Tribe would also leave spiritual power for future generations on the mountain.

The mountain being in jeopardy can be traced back to the creation of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Reservation through the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867, which placed the tribes’ reservation in southwest Oklahoma, where Longhorn Mountain is. By 1901, the Jerome Agreement opened the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Reservation to non-Indian settelement, after the KCA familes were allotted 160 acres each.

Kiowa tribal historian Phil Dupoint and Kiowa Museum Director Amie Tah-Bone are both trying to stop the gravel mining on Longhorn Mountain in Oklahoma. (Brian Daffron)
Kiowa tribal historian Phil Dupoint and Kiowa Museum Director Amie Tah-Bone are both trying to stop the gravel mining on Longhorn Mountain in Oklahoma. (Brian Daffron)


Sections of the mountain were alloted to Kiowa families, but those lands were eventually sold to non-Indians—five non-Indian familes currently own the Longhorn Mountain area. It is through what Dupoint refers to as a “gentleman’s agreement” that the Kiowa have entered the mountain on the east side to gather cedar.

Mining is scheduled to begin on the west side of the mountain this summer. A blasting permit was issued by the Oklahoma Department of Mines to the Material Service Corporation, according to Amie Tah-Bone, the Kiowa Museum director. Rock crushing activities will then be under the supervision of Stewart Stone, based out of Cushing, Oklahoma. Calls placed to the Oklahoma Department of Mines and to Stone have not been returned.

Dust from the mining activities on the west side have the potential to impact the area’s environment, ranging from reduction of air quality, damage to surrounding crops and livestock, and killing of the cedar trees on the mountain.

“It’s a hard and complex situation,” said Tah-Bone. “We’re at a disadvantage. It’s not trust land. It’s not federal land. It’s privately owned land, and we don’t have a right to it. We thank the people on the eastern side for their generosity in letting us have access to it. They could throw us in jail for trespassing, but they don’t. We are working on it… and doing everything we can think of to stop it. It might take some time. We want people to know we’re doing the best that we can.”

The Kiowa have been meeting with landowners as well as state and federal officials about the issue. Kiowa officials have also been meeting with the farmers and ranchers in the surrounding region about the environmental impact of the mining. Dupoint and Tah-Bone encourage those who want to help to contact the Kiowa Tribe at 580-654-2300 or email

Previous attempts to purchase the land have not been successful. For now, efforts to halt construction rest with those who hold the surface and mineral rights to the mountain—the landowners—and those who are spiritually connected to the mountain.

“Right now, it’s just to work with the landowners,” Dupoint said. “Somewhere down the line, if it’s not them, maybe their offspring. They may feel passion; they may be able to talk with us and give us the opportunity to purchase it back, or they would deed it back to us. We don’t know what goes on in a man’s mind or in his heart.”



NIGC consults tribes at meetings in Washington and Oklahoma


The National Indian Gaming Commission will be consulting tribes at two upcoming meetings.

The commission will be on the Tulalip Reservation in Washington next Thursday, July 18. The consultation takes place after the Northwest Indian Gaming Conference & Expo.

“It is essential that we engage with tribes on policies that directly affect them,” NIGC Chairwoman Tracie Stevens said in a press release. “Tribes and tribal regulators are uniquely positioned to provide relevant information and feedback to the NIGC.”

Stevens is a member of the Tulalip Tribes. She will be leaving the NIGC by the end of August, a person with a connection to the Obama administration confirmed.

Before she leaves, the commission will be holding another public meeting on August 14 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It takes place following the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Conference & Trade Show.

One of the topics on the agenda for both meetings will be the NIGC’s proposal to treat one-touch bingo as a Class II game. Comments are also being accepted in written form until August 26.

“The NIGC is not proposing a regulation classifying games but rather our proposal is to reconsider one agency decision related to one type of game — one touch bingo,” Stevens said.

Navajo Code Talker Will Be Honored at MLB All-Star Game

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Veterans will be honored at the MLB All-Star Game to be played July 16 at Citi Field in Queens, New York (despite the home club New York Mets offending American Indians this week). And one of those will be Navajo Code Talker David Patterson. He will represent the Los Angeles Dodgers at the event.

By fan selection through a People magazine effort called Tribute to Heroes, Patterson and 29 other vets, one per MLB team, were voted in and will be honored at the baseball game. Meet all the vets here.

Here is the biography of Patterson provided by People.

David E. Patterson Sr. of Rio Rancho, N.M., is among an elite group of marines who helped create the only unbroken code in modern military history. As one of the Navajo Code Talkers, David and other Navajos coded and decoded classified military dispatches during WWII using a code derived from their native tongue. The Code Talkers took part in every Marine assault, from Guadalcanal in 1942 to Okinawa in 1945, including the Marshall Islands, Kwajalein, Iwo Jima, and Saipan, and doubtless helped win the war. After he was discharged, David, now 90, went to college in Oklahoma and New Mexico, becoming a social worker. He married and raised his family on the reservation in Shiprock, N.M., and worked for the Navajo Nation’s Division of Social Services until retiring in 1987. He was awarded the Silver Congressional Medal of Honor in 2001 and up until last year volunteered in a Shiprock school on the Navajo Reservation as a



Alcohol in the Movies: Parents Need to Talk to Children about Consequences of Drinking

Source: Native News Network

WASHINGTON – Given huge problems in and out of the American Indian community with alcohol abuse, it is unfortunate that its usage is glamorized by Hollywood in feature movies.

Alcohol in the Movies

Movies rated for teen audiences are showing more alcohol.


A recently released study indicates movies rated for teen audiences are showing more alcohol. Elaina Bergamini of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire looked at data on hit movies from 1996 through 2009. She says appearances of branded alcohol in movies rated G, PG and PG-13 rose from 80 to 145 a year.

Bergamini says there are controls on tobacco appearances, and they were not rising, but alcohol lacks similar controls.

She says parents should talk with their children:

“Talk about drinking. Talk about binge drinking. And talk about the consequences of drinking especially in light of the fact that those consequences are not sufficiently represented in the movies.”

The study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The Basics

Talk to your child about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Knowing the facts will help your child make healthy choices.

Parents, what do you need to say when you talk about tobacco, alcohol, and drugs?

Here are some tips that may be useful:

  • Teach your child the facts
  • Give your child clear rules
  • Find out what your child already knows
  • Be prepared to answer your child’s questions
  • Talk with your child about how to say “no”

“Holy Man” Producers Start a Kickstarter Campaign: Need Your Help!

Levi Rickert, Native News Network

LOS ANGELES Producers of “Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White” are raising funds through Kickstarter to finish the feature documentary narrated by award winning actor Martin Sheen.

Holy Man, The USA vs Douglas White

Douglas White (c) with filmmakers Jennifer Jessum(Director/Producer) and Simon J. Joseph (Writer/Producer).


The Kickstarter campaign was started to raise finishing funds to pay for music rights, make DVDs, and redesign the HOLY MAN website in order to sell DVDs. Any additional funds raised will go to doing free screenings on reservations and getting copies of the film into reservation schools and libraries across the country.

“Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White” is the story of a Lakota Sioux holy man who was wrongfully convicted and spent 17 years in prison, for a crime he didn’t commit.

Douglas White, an elderly Lakota Sioux medicine man from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, spent the last 17 years of his life in a federal prison for a crime he did not commit.

Holy Man, The USA vs Douglas White

White was sent to prison for the alleged sexual abuse of his two grandsons. Years later the grandsons recanted their stories and admitted they lied in court at their grandfather’s trial. Even with the new evidence, White remained in prison until his death at 89 in 2009.

“Holy Man” offers a rare glimpse into the mysterious world of Lakota religion, their intimate connection to the land, and a provocative expose of the systemic injustice that Native Americans face in the criminal justice system. “Holy Man” is narrated by Martin Sheen and features Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Russell Means, Arvol Looking Horse, Dr. Fred Alan Wolf, Leonard Crow Dog, and many other Lakota elders and leaders.

You can choose to help with a donation here.

Grave robber’s loot

400 confiscated artifacts returned to Navajo

By Shondlin Silversmith, Navajo Times

(Times photo – Shondiin Silversmith)U.S. Army Corps of Engineer workers Julia Price, right, and Ron Kneebone, left, unload artifacts that were recovered from South Dakota.

(Times photo – Shondiin Silversmith)
U.S. Army Corps of Engineer workers Julia Price, right, and Ron Kneebone, left, unload artifacts that were recovered from South Dakota.

July 9 was a good day for the Navajo Nation. More than 400 artifacts that were stolen from Navajo land were finally returned.

The Navajo Nation coordinated with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers’ Omaha, Neb. District to have the stolen artifacts returned.

The individual responsible for the theft is Donald B. Yellow, who stole a total of 710 artifacts, with 425 of those items being from the Navajo Nation.

According to the USACE, the artifacts were found in central South Dakota when Yellow attempted to sell some of them.

“It was a pretty interesting case,” Julie Price, USACE program manager, said because she still doesn’t know how Yellow was able to transport the items from the Southwest to the middle of South Dakota.

The artifacts were taken from Lukachukai, Ariz., said Ronald Maldonado, supervisory archaeologist for the Navajo Nation Historic Preservation Department.

Maldonado said Yellow was a technician working for the Indian Health Service in Chinle when he found the items and collected them, some from a gravesite in the Chuskas. When he relocated to the Midwest, he allegedly took all his collection with him.

“It’s not a lot of stuff, but it belongs to the people, and it feels good to have it back where it belongs,” Maldonado said.

The artifacts include four grinding stones, a hand-grinding stone, a wooden weaving batton, five whole and partial pottery bowls, a bundle of cordage/rope, 381 pottery shards, 20 stone pieces, 11 stone tools and a corn cob.

“He took something from a Navajo burial. It’s part of the culture that’s being stolen, I don’t know whose grave they took this from but this was a Navajo burial,” Maldonado said, adding he can’t believe people would do that to sell the items for profit. “It’s good to see it returned back where it belongs, back to Navajo. It’s part of the culture, part of the history and people.”

During his trial almost two years ago, Yellow pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. He was sentenced on Oct. 11, 2011. The judge ordered that he be fined $618, pay restitution of $4,382, but no jail and no probation.

ARPA is an act set to “to secure, for the present and future benefit of the American people, the protection of archaeological resources and sites which are on public lands and Indian lands,” states language in the legislation.

Within the documents provided by Megan Maier, field archaeologist with the USACE Omaha District, “the forfeited artifacts were looted from both USACE-managed lands and Navajo tribal lands. This information was obtained through interviews between the arresting officer and Mr. Yellow. The judge ordered that all southwestern artifacts are to be returned to the Navajo Nation.”

“ARPA violations have hefty fines and restitution fees, so with the coordination between multiple agencies hopefully we’re making an impact on people that are destroying these types of items,” said Price.

“If feels very good to bring something back to its homeland where it’s supposed to be,” Price added, noting that this is normally a long, complicated process, but since Yellow admitted where he took the items from they were able to start returning the items after making contact with the Navajo Nation over a year ago.

“Everything went smoothly to bring them back to where they were stolen,” Price said, adding that it was nice being able to work with a tribe they’ve never visited before and return the artifacts to their homeland.

“It shows that sometimes the bad guys get caught and good things can come out of bad situations,” she said.

“The people that are looting and profiting off these artifacts are slowly learning a lesson,” Maier said. “If you are going to be profiting off someone else’s culture, you’re going to get caught.”

Mutant Super-Wheat Spreading By Itself! Alarmed Farmers Sue Monsanto

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

From 1998 to 2005, agricultural biotech giant Monsanto planted genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant wheat in experimental fields in 16 states. It was not intended for commercialization; genetically engineered wheat has never been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for sale. But, nine years after Monsanto’s experiment was discontinued, strains of this GM wheat have been found in other wheat fields, the USDA announced on May 29.

Immediately after the news leaked, South Korea and Japan banned all U.S. imports of wheat. And a handful of wheat farmers have since sued Monsanto, charging that this genetic pollution is financially damaging their business, reported Natural News.

Monsanto’s other genetically engineered crops—including many currently available on supermarket shelves—have encountered a barrage of backlash as well, with debates raging about the need for GMO crops to be labeled as such. Environmentalists sound horns about GMOs spreading or “self-replicating,” and nutritionists question the long-term implications genetically engineered foods will have on our health.

All this, and many of Monsanto’s efforts to make plants insect- and herbicide-resistant have backfired, as pests have developed immunity, reported OpposingViews.

Mike Adams, the health ranger editor for Natural News, has warned that self-replicating GMOs, like the glyphosate-resistant wheat, have sparked a “genetic apocalypse”—with the potential to threaten the global food supply and destroy the human race:

Mark my words: there will come a day when Americans will wish they had burned all the GM corn fields to the ground. But by then it will be too late. The blight will be upon us, and with it comes the starvation, the suffering, the desperation and the riots. Hunger turns all family men into savages, just as greed turns all corporate men into demons.



A ‘Pissed’ Boehner Leading Latest Indian War on Food Stamps

Rob Capriccioso, Indian Country Today Native News Network

Once again, Congress is taking steps to slash funding for SNAP—the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as Food Stamps—as nutrition experts and tribal advocates fear that Native Americans’ use of the program and its usefulness to them is being ignored in the overall debate.

“Many tribal communities are food deserts and SNAP cuts will only double the hardship some face to get access to food,” said Jim Roberts, a policy analyst with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. “Generally, tribes are focused on preserving and protecting [Bureau of Indian Affairs] and [Indian Health Service] programs. Thus, the program does not have a strong advocate to speak up for it.

“Tribal health directors feel the current debate on deficit reduction and the effects of food sequestration have and will continue to have a negative impact on SNAP,” Roberts added. “Nutrition programs on reservations are already underfunded. The programs in many instances are the primary source of food for Indian families and their children.”

Congress isn’t hearing Indian voices on this issue, said Craig Gunderson, a University of Illinois professor who has conducted studies and reported on American Indian use of federal food programs.

“Unfortunately, while there is lots of coverage of SNAP, I haven’t seen as much regarding American Indians within current debates,” Gunderson said. “This is unfortunate because, insofar as American Indians have some of the highest food insecurity rates of any group in the United States, they have the most to lose.”

Government statistics indicate that American Indians are among the groups who rely on food stamps and federal nutrition programs the most. According to recent federal data, SNAP in 2008 served an average of 540,000 low-income people who identified as American Indian/Alaska Native alone and 260,000 who identified as American Indian/Alaska Native and White per month.

The National Congress of American Indians reports that 20 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native households receive Food Stamps. And while American Indian/Alaska Native households make up about .7 percent of total U.S. households, they make up 1.5 percent of SNAP households.

The situation is so acute that Chris Stearns, the chairman of the Seattle Human Rights Commission, regards it as a major human rights issue. “The USDA reports that among households with children, nearly twice as many Native households are food insecure than among non-Native households (28 versus 16 percent),” he noted. “The right to food is a basic human right covered in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In addition, Article 24 of the U.N. Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides that indigenous people have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health. The right to food is inherent in that broader right.”

In June, House Republican leaders failed to pass a farm bill that would have included large food-stamp program cuts after the GOP passed an amendment to institute work requirements. The bill included a 3 percent cut to the $80 billion-a-year nutrition program.

Sixty-two Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the House bill, prompting Speaker John Boehner during a later closed meeting of House Republicans to say he was “pissed off,” a remark that was widely reported in the press.

The Senate passed a farm bill last month with a smaller cut to food stamps of one-half of one percent with widespread Democratic and Republican support.

After the embarrassing defeat, Republican leadership in the House worked feverishly to pass a farm bill that would not include food stamps at all, wanting to leave that debate for another time. In a floor vote on the evening of July 11, the vote was narrowly successful, 216-208, with no Democrats voting for it and with 12 Republicans opposing.

If there is a bright spot in the current crisis, it is that the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, a federal program that provides U.S. Department of Agriculture foods to low-income Indian country-based households, appears safe for now. That program served approximately 80,000 individuals per month in fiscal year 2011, according to administrative data.



Get ready, humpy invasion nearly here

By Wayne Kruse, Special to The Herald

That pink haze on the horizon means the odd-year humpy invasion is nearly here, and it’s time to start gearing up before the good stuff is all gone. The first pink salmon in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca was caught July 3, out of the Ediz Hook public ramp in Port Angeles, and larger numbers quickly followed.

By last Sunday, state Department of Fish and Wildlife creel samplers tallied 146 anglers at the hook with 151 pinks. The catch also included 28 chinook and 8 coho.

Gary Krein of Everett, owner of All Star Charters (425-252-4188), said fishable numbers of pinks should be available on the west side of Possession Bar/Double Bluff somewhere between August 1st and 5th, and on this side — Brown’s Bay and the shipwreck — between the 8th and 12th.

Stock up on white flashers, standard 11-inch, or similar dodgers, and pink or red mini squids tied on double 4/0 hooks. Plan on using 24 to 26 inches of leader, Krein said, and a very slow troll.

Cabela’s Tulalip store has scheduled a full range of free pink salmon seminars this weekend, as follows (the times apply both Saturday and Sunday):

  • Fly Fishing for Pinks, 11 a.m., hosted by Mike Benbow.
  • Successful River Techniques for Pinks, 12:15 p.m., hosted by guide Jennifer Stahl.
  • Catching Pinks with Dick Nite Spoons, 1:30 p.m., hosted by Captain Jon Blank.
  • Puget Sound Pink Fishing, 2:45 p.m., hosted by Captain Nick Kester (on Sat.), and Captain Ryan Bigley (on Sun.).
  • Tying Your Own Pink Salmon Jigs, 4 p.m., hosted by Cabela’s Outfitters.

Also, check out free demonstrations on smoking your catch, kids’ casting, and a lot more.

For a full schedule of pink salmon and archery hunting seminars coming up, visit, or call 360-474-4880.

Baker Lake sockeye

The hugely popular sockeye fishery on Baker Lake opened yesterday, and was too new at time of writing to produce any meaningful results. Prior to the opener, however, Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington (360-757-4361) predicted that this weekend could see enough of the highly-sought salmon in the lake to be worth an early trip.

John said that, through Sunday, some 2,617 fish had been trapped below Baker Dam, and 1,931 had been transported to the lake.

“Compare that to last year,” John said, “when there were only 600 or 700 in the lake at this point, so there may be enough biters on hand to make the first weekend fishable.”

The upper third of the lake is the traditional fishing area, north and/or east of the bend. John said the lake is a little colder this year, which would tend to keep the sockeye fairly shallow — at least until the fleet hounds them into deeper water. John said the bulk of the catch will probably come from 15 or 20 feet of water for the first couple of weeks or so, which means that a 6-ounce crescent sinker should get your gear into their faces about as well as a downrigger. That’s especially true when holding your speed down to the critical very slow troll.

Rig with a big ring “0” or “00” dodger, 8 to 18 inches of leader, bare red or black hooks, or a 1 1/2-inch pink hoochie. Add a small piece of shrimp and douse the works with shrimp oil.

The hoochie can be UV pink, John said, maybe dressed up with a smile blade or a red or pink size 8 or 10 Spin N Glo. John likes dodgers in UV white, UV purple haze, or 50-50.

“The two-pole endorsement on your license is legal on Baker and a good idea,” John said. “these are school fish and when you find ’em, you need as much gear in the water as possible.”

He said that the saltwater “boat limit” is in effect, meaning basically that the guy who still hasn’t boated his limit can continue to fish everybody else’s rods.

Check out the current trap counts at

Lake Wenatchee sockeye

The first sockeye of the year passed Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River Monday, according to state biologist Travis Maitland, signaling the start of the Lake Wenatchee run. Maitland said predictions are for fewer fish this year than during the banner 2012 season (over 66,000 fish at Tumwater), but he still is hopeful of something in the 44,000 to 50,000-fish range, which would be a solid run and which would allow a recreational fishery.

Last year’s excellent season started with a three-fish daily limit, but that was bumped up to five fish in a total sport harvest of over 12,000 sockeye.

Maitland said he should have enough hard data from the dam counts by late next week to come to some decision on the possibility of a fishing season. If a season is announced, he said, it would probably open in early August.

San Juan chinook

The first week of summer salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands has been much better than what anglers found there last year, according to Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington. It’s off to a great start, he said, particularly inside Rosario Strait in such hot spots as Decatur Bay, Thatcher Pass, Reef Point, Eagle Bluff and Obstruction Pass.

The kings are running 10 to 20 pounds and whacking gear such as Coho Killer and Kingfisher spoons in “whie lightning” pattern; UV hoochies; AceHi flies; and herring or anchovies in a helmet.

On the July 1 opener, 123 anglers were contacted by WDFW personnel at the Washington Park ramp in Anacortes, with 42 chinook and 1 coho. On Sunday, at the same spot, it was 29 anglers with 8 chinook. At the Cornet Bay ramp on Sunday, 41 anglers had14 chinook.

Upper Columbia salmon

Not hot yet, but a few sockeye and summer chinook are being caught in the upper Columbia. The run will build in coming weeks, according to Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad’s Family Guide Service in Chelan, below Wells Dam and off the mouth of the Okanogan River above Brewster. For the kings, pull a Hot Spot flasher and a Super Bait stuffed with oil-pack tuna and coated liberally with your favorite sauce. Jones likes Pautzke’s Krill Juice.

For the sockeye, try Mack’s mini cha-cha squidders.

Ocean salmon

The latest state catch sampling, through June 30, showed Ilwaco as the hot spot on the coast, averaging better than a salmon and a third per rod, mostly coho. At Westport it was a half-fish per person, about 50-50 coho and chinook; and at LaPush, one fish per rod, split between coho and chinook.

Cowlitz River

Some 22 boat fishermen kept 6 steelhead last week and 20 bank anglers landed 3 adult spring chinook on the Cowlitz, all between the two hatcheries.

Middle Columbia

The Dalles pool has been offering hot fishing recently, according to Joe Hymer with the state. Boat fishermen averaged 2.5 walleye per person last week and over 6 bass when including fish released.

American Indian descendants of Sand Creek Massacre seek reparations

By Keith Coffman

DENVER | Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:32pm EDT

(Reuters) – Four descendants of Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians slaughtered in 1864 by U.S. federal troops in Colorado sued the federal government on Thursday for reparations over what became known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver accuses federal authorities of reneging on an 1866 promise to compensate victims of the massacre, and is demanding an accounting for the money that was set aside to pay the claims.

The Sand Creek Massacre, which took place when Colorado was a U.S. territory still 12 years away from statehood, was one of many skirmishes in the 19th century Indian Wars as white settlers expanded westward.

The suit says the U.S. federal government is responsible for an army that “committed acts of genocide, torture, mutilation, harassment and intimidation” against Indians who were camped along the Colorado creek when they were attacked without provocation, the lawsuit said

A spokesman for the Interior Department could not immediately be reached for comment.

At dawn on the morning of the massacre on November 29, 1864, about 700 U.S. cavalry troops, commanded by Colonel John Chivington, descended on an encampment of some 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians along the Sand Creek near Fort Lyon, Colorado.

The Indians at Sand Creek were non-combatants in the Indian Wars and were led to believe under the terms of the 1861 Treaty of Fort Wise that they were in a safe haven. Nevertheless, cavalry troops opened fire with “artillery and 12-pound mountain howitzers,” according to the lawsuit.

An elderly Cheyenne Chief, White Antelope, ran toward the troops and crossed his arms, signifying that the villagers did not want to fight.

He was shot dead, and the “plaintiffs still have the bullet hole-riddled blanket” the chief wore when he was gunned down, the lawsuit said. An estimated 165 Indians – many unarmed women, children and the elderly – were killed over the next several hours.

The massacre grounds are now a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service.

The federal government conducted an investigation and promised to pay reparations to the survivors under the Treaty of Little Arkansas but never made good on the promise, the lawsuit claims.

“The DOI (Department of the Interior) is believed to have since 1866, controlled and held in trust reparations owed to plaintiffs and their ancestors,” the lawsuit said.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, which a federal judge must approve. The suit names the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs as defendants.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)