Many retaliatory acts occurred in the aftermath of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado, leading the U.S. Army to launch a campaign against the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa following the signing of several peace treaties. In November 1868, after unsuccessfully seeking protection at Fort Cobb, Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle and Arapaho Chief Big Mouth returned to their winter villages in the Washita River Valley. The very next day a surprise attack was launched by Lieutenant Colonel George Custer, capturing 53 and killing thirty to sixty Cheyennes, including Black Kettle and his wife. Under Major General Philip Sheridan’s policy of “total war,” approximately 800 horses were then slaughtered and the village burned.
Museum, film, interpretive trail
The events that took place the morning of November 27, 1868 in western Oklahoma have been described either as a battle or a massacre. A small National Park Service (NPS) visitor center with exhibits on the events is shared with the U.S. Forest Service’s Black Kettle National Grassland. Located just down the road on Highway 47 is a self-guided walking tour of the prairie battlefield.
The 1.4-mile hiking trail through the battlefield leaves from an overlook of the historic site down to the Washita River where trees grow.
The vegetation is typical of Oklahoma prairie with grasses, yucca, and Indian blanket (in bloom in late May).
All roads paved
There are private campgrounds in Cheyenne, Oklahoma, or you can head 25 miles southeast to Foss State Park.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Oklahoma)
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