Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Sand Creek Massacre: John Evans founded DU, too, but it's not following Northwestern's path

This is Founder's Day at the University of Denver, with the founder in question being then-territorial governor John Evans. In fact, "the university's highest award" is the Evans Award, which will be handed out to a Board of Trustees member tonight. Before he moved to Colorado, Evans had founded Northwestern University just north of Chicago -- but that school isn't giving Evans any awards these days.

Last month, in fact, Northwestern announced that it had formed a committee of seven historians to look into John Evans's role in authorizing the Sand Creek Massacre, when Colonel John Chivington, a close Evans colleague, led 700 troops who killed between 150 and 200 members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, most of them elderly, women and children at a peaceful camp along Sand Creek.

Here's part of the announcement from Northwestern provost Daniel Linzer:

The year 2014 will mark the 150th anniversary of Sand Creek, so it is appropriate to assess how and what we report about John Evans as part of our institutional history, and if and in what way we should continue to recognize his contributions to the University. Although Sand Creek occurred thirteen years after the establishment of Northwestern, we would like to know in detail the nature of John Evans's relationship with the university when he was territorial governor and afterwards.
Which is certainly more curiosity than University of Denver administrators are exhibiting towards Evans, who founded DU in 1864, the same year as the Sand Creek Massacre. The day before Founder's Day, a DU spokeswoman said there has been no request to investigate Evans's connection to Sand Creek, and that no investigation is planned.

But hold your horses. According to DU professor Alan Gilbert, the issue came up at a faculty senate meeting this week, and he's been pushing for an investigation of Evans's role since early January. "A lot of faculty are interested," he says. Particularly those who are known as Evans professors -- and think a more appropriate title might be "Silas Soule professors," after the captain who refused to participate in the massacre and testified against Chivington before Congress -- and was murdered in Denver in 1865 as thanks for his efforts.

Evans was asked to resign by President Ulysses S. Grant for his role in the massacre. Happy Founder's Day.

From the Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Presidential debate winner: The University of Denver."

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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

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