Luckily my trip to visit family for Thanksgiving last fall that took me to see The Dalton Gang Hideout also took me by some other Old West sites I had been wanting to see. Among these was the Washita Massacre site, just west of Cheyenne, OK.
The life of Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle was a fascinating one. A man, wanting to live free, but making peace with the people who would take his freedom away from him in order to do what he felt was best for the whole of his people, only to be betrayed several times by the people he made peace with. He had survived the Sand Creek Massacre, only to be cut down by US Calvary led by the villain Custer during the Washita Massacre. Shakespeare couldn’t have written a more tragic tale.
The US government and the State of Oklahoma has done well to acknowledge the historical significance of the ‘battle’, as they have built and maintained the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in remembrance of the events. The visitor center is a beautifully modern building, with large windows overlooking the valley where the Washita River flows, where the battle took place.
By the big window overlooking the battlegrounds there is a 3 dimensional map of the grounds, which really helps put the events into perspective. The Parks employee inside was quite friendly & helpful and highly knowledgeable. There was a lot of good information on the events of the massacre and the events that led up to it. You can even watch a video that explains it all, if you don’t like reading.
Down the trail a little bit you will find the monuments and a trail that leads down to the river. As I was driving all the way back to Nebraska and had other stops planned, I, unfortunately, did not have time to go down the trail. But did take a minute to look over the land and weigh in my mind what occurred here.
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site was a thought provoking and humbling visit. You can tell a great deal of care and honest effort has gone into the grounds and into telling the story correctly and accurately. That’s why it baffles me that it is still called a battleground instead of a massacre. Attacking a peaceful camp at dawn in the cold of winter, killing more women and children than fighting men, kidnapping scores more, killing horses and then retreating in cowardice when realizing several more Natives camps are just down river is not a battle. It is definitely a massacre.
But that is my only complaint. Otherwise, Washita was an informative and well maintained Historic site. It’s pretty out of the way but worth the trip.