One of the more memorable events of Colorado’s Black Lives Matter movement was the toppling of the state capitol’s statue of a Civil War soldier honoring Union soldiers. Now, Colorado officials are replacing the fallen statue with one of a Native American woman.
The new sculpture will memorialize the Sand Creek Massacre which took place 156 years ago, according to CPR News.
“They were wiped out,” Otto Braided Hair, of the Northern Cheyenne and a descendant of Sand Creek survivors, told the Capitol Building Advisory Committee, according to CPR News. “Their voices are no longer heard. Their wishes and concerns were no longer heard. Those are the people we speak for.”
During the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe members — mostly women, children, and elderly — were killed by the 1st and 3rd Colorado Cavalry regiments during an ambush. In fact, the former capitol statue was even designed by a member of the 1st Cavalry, Capt. Jack Howland.
The new statue will depict a Native woman grieving over the massacre. In a proposed clay model, she holds an empty cradleboard in one hand while her other hand is outstretched.
“It’s really about the women. The women carry the men in the tribes on their backs. I wanted to depict a woman,” said Harvey Pratt, who was commissioned by One Earth Future to design and create the statue. “She’s in mourning and she’s kneeling, just sitting down. She’s lost her baby and maybe her grandparents. She’s got cuts on her legs and she’s cut her finger off.”
Pratt is an artist, a Vietnam War veteran, and is a retired police forensic artist for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI). Among the cases he’s worked on includes Gary Ridgeway — the Green River Killer, Dennis Rader — BTK, and Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole.
The statue is especially meaningful to Pratt as his great-grandparents were survivors of the Sand Creek Massacre, which increased animosity between Native American tribes and the U.S. Army for years to come. His ancestors escaped the massacre by running barefoot through snow and ice.
Growing up, Pratt was told to always keep a pair of shoes next to his bed, “in case something like that happened again, at least we wouldn’t be barefoot,” he said.
Next, the proposed statue must be approved by the state legislature to decide how big the sculpture should be as well as how it will be transferred to Colorado from Oklahoma — which is where the statue will be constructed by Pratt once a seven-inch prototype has been approved.