"Family Secrets," Patricia Calhoun, November 20
I read your article on the Sand Creek Massacre. It is a subject that I first heard about in elementary school in Aurora in 1968. It is a black story in the development of Colorado and a shameful event that we should never forget, but keep it in perspective.
Our western ancestors, both native and pioneer immigrants, were wild men and women who lived in a harsh and dangerous time. Might was often right, and while there were many who did not abuse their power and position, many did commit crimes against the human race. By today's enlightened standards, I think we can find bad things done by many in our state's history, both Native Americans and the interlopers who took over western America. This does not excuse John Evans or the supremely hypocritical John Chivington, only acknowledges their places in a time when murder and mayhem were more a way of life than an exceptional occurrence.
Mount Evans should be renamed Cheyenne Arapaho Peak or Sand Creek Mountain. I think that would honor the victims of the massacre and remove part of the honor and stature that John Evans has received in our state's history. This should be done publicly and officially to give at least a starting place to an honest discussion of what we have inherited from those who, right or wrong, came before us and lived on this land we call Colorado.
I've read with interest Patricia Calhoun's coverage of the Sand Creek Massacre and its connection to Colorado's second territorial governor, John Evans.
As we approach the 150th anniversary of the event and wrestle with how to best commemorate it and honor and remember those who were killed, one thought becomes pretty obvious: It is disgraceful that the closest, the most prominent and the highest of the 14,000-foot peaks visible from Denver — indeed, the most dominant feature in any photograph of Denver looking west — is a mountain named after John Evans.
It's one thing to name a manmade street after a disgraced governor, who was forced to resign for his part in a massacre that killed mostly women and children. But to name one of the most beautiful natural features in Colorado after this man is a travesty.
Unfortunately, renaming peaks is not an easy task. The Alaska State Legislature has been trying to officially change Mount McKinley to its rightful name of Denali since 1975. Denali is the name given to the peak by the Koyukon Athabaskan people who originally inhabited the area, and means "the high one" or "the great one." Unfortunately, attempts to officially change the name from McKinley have been blocked by representatives from Ohio, William McKinley's home state.
It was the Colorado Legislature that named Mount Evans in 1895. What a gesture it would be if, on the 150th anniversary of Sand Creek, a state commission was formed to look for a second name for Mount Evans — one that had the approval of the Cheyenne Nation and the survivors of Sand Creek and honored the original people of the area.
It's not worth the political brain damage to try to undo the name Evans. The most practical solution is to give the peak a second official name, just as we have two official state songs. What better way could there be to remember Sand Creek and the Cheyenne people who died there than to add a second name to this gorgeous mountain — a peak that is seen and appreciated daily by millions of people?
Congratulations on your recent piece concerning the University of Denver and the Sand Creek Massacre. Gee golly, I had visions of you wearing a DU cheerleader uniform and yelling "Yu Rah Rah" on the DU quad. Perhaps in another 150 years or so, DU might own up to the plethora of crimes it has committed against its students in recent years. I cannot escape the feeling that your screed has transformed from an independent, investigatory publication to a pathetic rag pimping the local powers-to-be as a means to facilitate your financial survival.
I, for one, have indefinitely suspended my reading of Westword.
Thank you for your coverage of the Sand Creek Massacre. As a fourth-grade teacher, it has been interesting watching my students' reactions to this event. They show surprise, shock and regret. It is a sad but necessary chapter to teach. As a guest of state senator John Kefalas, it stirred my heart to witness the state senators stand and face the descendants of the Cheyenne and Arapaho as the resolution was accepted that remembered the 150th anniversary of this event.
Reflecting on this event, do you know if there is any official "mourning" for the dead? I know there will be the Healing run, speeches, lectures and even films. But is there a way for all Colorado citizens to come together to just cry — with no cell phones, video — just the sound of all us crying out together for those lives that were gunned down and brutalized in November 1864? I just think it would be good to weep together. Do you know of anything like that going on?
Again, thank you for your articles. I know Sand Creek will never be forgotten.
Editor's note: On the morning of November 30, as the Healing Run starts at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, churches across Colorado will observe a moment of silence for the victims of Sand Creek. Other activities will stretch from November 29, the annual anniversary date, through December 3, when the run will end at the State Capitol. We'll continue to cover the event at westword.com. For more information, go to sandcreekmassacre150.com — or see page 26.