Scores of people participated in a “pinecone ceremony” and farolito lighting to mark the holiday season at The Fort restaurant in Morrison on Sunday under snowy skies.
Visitors wrote a name or names on a piece of paper of loved ones they want to remember during the holidays and slipped the paper into a pinecone. The pinecones then were tossed into a campfire built in the central courtyard of the restaurant, the messages carried into the sky by the flames.
It was a poignant evening for Rich Stevens and wife Judy of Denver. Stevens tucked a slip of paper into a pinecone for his mother, who passed away in August.
Steve Peterson, who lives near Roxborough State Park, brought his young children Ruby and Cori to the event to experience something that felt like “authentic Colorado.”
The family was not disappointed, Peterson said. They sang Christmas carols, drank hot chocolate and honored Alexa Roberts, superintendent of the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site and Old Bent’s Fort Site for the National Park Service. This year is the 150th anniversary of the massacre in Kiowa County in which more than 150 tribal people were killed, most of them women and children.
To honor Roberts, Fort owner Holly Arnold read a poem written by Caroline Goodwin, a descendant of Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans. Evans has been found culpable for the massacre by recent academic groups who studied what happened.
Arnold said copies of the poem were printed on special paper and given to descendants of the massacre who came to The Fort for a recent commemoration. One of the descendants of the massacre described the poem as the Indian tribe’s “treaty” after 150 years of controversy.
“It was a very healing moment,” Arnold said of the gathering of the descendants.
On Sunday, an American Indian flute song was played in remembrance of the massacre. Roberts then threw an antique switch that lit the farolitos, or lights inside of paper bags, and other Christmas lights around The Fort.
The Fort was built in 1962 by Sam Arnold, Holly’s father, to be a scale replica of Bent’s Old Fort, which is located in Kiowa County near the Sand Creek Massacre site. The Fort originally was intended to be Arnold’s home, but he decided to turn it into a restaurant as construction costs mounted.
In 1999, the Arnold family launched the Tesoro Cultural Center, a nonprofit group that holds educational events there for anyone interested in Colorado history.