Lauren SmallAn Interview with Lauren Small


What brought you to write Choke Creek? 

I grew up in Colorado, where the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, one of the worst atrocities of the Indian Wars, took place.  I was educated in Denver schools, but never heard a word about Sand Creek or, for that matter, about the pivotal role Colorado played in the removal of Native Americans from the West.  When I became an adult, I became curious about the history of the place I grew up in and decided to read about it. I was horrified to learn about Sand Creek, but even more outraged that the massacre had been so thoroughly hidden.  I decided to write about that.

What happened at Sand Creek?

It's a complicated history, and it's worth looking into in more detail—there have been several good books written on the topic, such as Stan Hoig's The Sand Creek Massacre.  Basically a mixed group of federal troops and volunteers, under the command of Colonel John Chivington, massacred a peaceful band of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians camped in southeastern Colorado on the banks of the Big Sandy Creek.  Over 160 Indians died that day, mostly women and children.  Afterwards the soldiers looted the Indians' property and desecrated their bodies in ways that were both shameful and gruesome.

Why was the massacre never talked about?  

Well, it was, but that was the problem!  Chivington claimed Sand Creek was a justifiable battle, and most people in Denver agreed.  Two of the soldiers under his command, however, were horrified by what they had seen, and wrote letters about it.  As a result, the army launched an investigation, but the perpetrators were never punished.  To this day some people still claim Sand Creek wasn't a massacre. 

read more . . .(pdf version)

 Reading Group Questions


Choke Creek is based on the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864.  The National Park Service and the Arapaho Project offer good introductions to the history of Sand Creek:



1.  What are the differences between the Sand Creek Massacre and the massacre depicted in Choke Creek?   Why do you think the author of Choke Creek chose to make these changes?  What does this tell you about the way writers adapt history for their novels?

2.  What role did The Rocky Mountain Sun play in covering up the Choke Creek massacre?  Do you think Asa Glauber was justified in hiding the truth?

3.  Eason's father and great-grandfather were soldiers.  How does the military tradition of his family affect the choices he makes?

 4.  How did Cyrus Swale’s own wartime experiences influence the expectations he had for his son?

 5.  Eason and his fellow soldiers call Vietnam "Indian Country?"  Why do you think they do this?  How does the legacy of the Indian Wars influence their conduct as soldiers?

read more . . .(pdf version)  


What a thrill it was for my granddaughter to receive her copy of Choke Creek. In turn she gave me a signed copy for Christmas. Having read your historical novel I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading every page. It was such a pleasure reading a story which can be of interest to a 73-year-old woman yet so perfect for the young generation. --Mary Moore, Richmond, VA


Join the Growing List of Groups and Clubs

Reading Choke Creek

     Kaleidoscope, Baltimore, MD

     Lighthouse Point Library Readers Review Group,

          Lighthouse Point, FL

     Edmunds Mother-Daughter Book Club, Baltimore, MD

     Bumble Book Club, Appleton, WI

     Roland Park Women's Book Club, Baltimore, MD

     Lutherville Book Club, Lutherville, MD


I stumbled across this book when I was searching for a way to help my high school juniors understand why history is inescapable. . . .I didn't want to put the book down and with every page found more and more reasons to have my students read this book. They LOVED it.  
    --Rebecca Hanson, American History teacher, Roland Park Country School, Baltimore, MD


To schedule an author visit or conference call for your club contact:

Lauren Small





Choke Creek by Lauren Small
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