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Former attorney hopes to bring entitlements to Sand Creek descendants

The treatment of Native Americans throughout history is undoubtedly a subject that many tend to brush under the rug today. Former Attorney General Larry Derryberry is fighting to defend the rights of the descendants of one of the most devastating occurrences in American history — the Sand Creek Massacre that resulted in the senseless death of roughly 163 Cheyenne Arapahos, including Chief Black Kettle, in 1864.

At 11 a.m. Monday, March 10, in College Union Room one, former Attorney General Larry Derryberry spoke to students about the Sand Creek Massacre and how the event affects its descendants today.

With around 50 people in attendance, Derryberry told about his personal experiences as well as the story of the Sand Creek Massacre.

Derryberry filed a lawsuit about five months ago against the United States Supreme Court in hopes for descendants to receive all they are entitled to.

Four individuals started the quest for the lawsuit in Oct. 1990.

“On Oct. 1, 1990, four individuals walked into my office … they were referred to me by a person who knew that I love Native American history … ” Derryberry said.

Derryberry said the group told him the story of the Sand Creek Massacre.

He signed on as the group’s lawyer on Oct. 21, 1990, after doing research.

“There’s a lot of mystery about all of it — the things that happened there, who it happened to, how many were there, how many died … Nobody really knows what happened, but I’ll tell you what I really think happened at Sand Creek,” he said.

The Native Americans had their teepees set up along the bank of Sand Creek, Derryberry said.

“We don’t know (specifically) how many people were there, but there were a few hundred,” he said. American Colonel John Chivington decided the Native Americans needed to be attacked.

“Over 500 troops were brought together, both civilian militia and army personnel, under the leadership of John Chivington to do the massacre at Sand Creek,” Derryberry said.

Native American leader Black Kettle attempted to stop the troops by talking to them peacefully, but one of the soldiers shot him in the heart, Derryberry said.

“They had an American flag in front of Black Kettle’s teepee and a white flag of peace and yet a decision was made to raid that encampment by John Chivington.”

Not only did the troops bring heavy artillery, but they did not leave until every Native American was dead.

“The soldiers went through the camp,” Derryberry said. “They killed everyone they could kill, chased everyone they could chase and decided they should go back and make sure everybody was dead. Everyone was not dead until the soldiers came back and made sure they were dead.”

The army took “souvenirs” like ears, scalps, private parts and other body parts, he said.

An investigation was done many years later by the United States Congress.

“The United States Congress started an investigation and at the end of it for the first and only time in the history of the United States of America, our government apologized … and they followed it with a treaty.

“Congress actually appropriated the money to pay for the commercial items that were destroyed and instructed that money be paid by the Department of the Interior who would also find private land for those people that was provided in the treaty.”

However, the money was not distributed to the Indians, because Congress believed they were incapable of managing their own money.

The amount of money that has yet to be distributed is an estimated $100 million or even possibly $1 billion, Derryberry said.

Derryberry and his group are still fighting for the Sand Creek Massacre descendants.

“I’ve been in the business of government and law for over 50 years now,” Derryberry said. “I never know what business is going to come in my door. I don’t go looking for business. I respond when business comes forward.” Nursing major Kasey Farmer said that she enjoyed the speaker.” “I thought it was really informational,” she said. “After it’s been going on so many years ago, he’s still so inspired by it … by getting them what they deserve.” For more information about the Sand Creek Massacre or Derryberry, visit his website at http://www.derryberrylaw.com/Attorneys/Larry-Derryberry.shtml.

To contact Lauren Daniel, email editor@occc.edu.