Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Northwestern Alliance Wants John Evans Name Removed; Will DU Students Follow?

At 11 a.m. on Sunday, November 29, Governor John Hickenlooper will be on the steps of the State Capitol, greeting the participants in the seventeenth annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run. Last year, on the 150th anniversary of the raid that Colonel John Chivington led on a peaceful camp of Cheyenne and Arapahoe that resulted in the slaughter of 200 people, most of them women, children and the elderly, Hickenlooper apologized to their descendants on behalf of Colorado. This year, he will announce plans to build a memorial to the massacre on the Capitol grounds, as well as the recent transfer of 640 acres of state land to the Sand Creek Massacre Historic Site, the National Parks monument outside of Eads, where the run began yesterday.

John Evans was the territorial governor of Colorado at the time of the massacre; he and Chivington were both active Methodists, having co-founded the seminary that would become the University of Denver just a few weeks before the massacre. Over the last two years, DU studied the role of Evans in the massacre, and while that committee did not go so far as to say Evans had ordered the massacre, the report was damning in concluding that he made it possible.

Federal investigations concurred, and Evans was forced to resign as territorial governor, although he remained a prominent figure in Colorado business and politics.

Before he moved to Colorado, Evans had lived in the Chicago area, where he was one of the founders of Northwestern University. At the behest of concerned students, Northwestern studied Evans's role in the Sand Creek Massacre even before DU tackled the job — and last week members of the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance launched a petition asking administrators to remove Evans's name from buildings across the campus, including the John Evans alumni Center. The students are also requesting that Northwestern remove Evans's name from faculty positions, such as the John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy.
Will DU students follow suit? And if so, would they stop at asking for the names of the John Evans professorship and Evans Memorial chapel to be changed. They might ask for an end to Evans Avenue, which not only cuts across campus but all of Denver, and includes such landmarks as the original Chipotle. Then there's the Evans School in Denver, just coming back to life as an office building, and the city of Evans, Colorado. And, towering on the skyline: Mount Evans itself.

The idea of changing the name of Colorado's twelfth tallest mountain, home to the highest paved road in North America, has been floated before...but the latest move at Northwestern could raise it again. Then again, so far no one is seriously pushing for a name change for the hometown of Northwestern: Evanston, Illinois.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun