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Two schools examine John Evans's history

Boone is not the only image problem the University of Denver faces. Before John Evans was named the territorial governor of Colorado, he lived in Chicago; a politician, real-estate investor and physician, he and other leaders founded Northwestern University in 1851, in his namesake town of Evanston. And in February, Northwestern University administrators agreed to student demands that the school investigate Evans's role in the Sand Creek Massacre, that dark day on November 29, 1864, when Colonel John Chivington led 700 troops in a raid on a peaceful camp, murdering between 150 and 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, most of them women, children and elderly. In 1865, Congress declared that action a "massacre"; Evans resigned his governorship at the request of President Andrew Johnson. But he stayed in Denver.

With the 150th anniversary of the massacre coming next year, Northwestern has appointed a committee of seven historians to examine Evans's record. And this week, DU — which is built along Evans Avenue, and whose highest alumni award is named after Evans — will take up his case at a meeting of faculty and administrators. After all, Evans and Chivington were colleagues — both Methodists, they founded the Colorado Seminary, which became DU, together in 1864, and Evans appointed Reverend Chivington to head the Colorado Volunteers. "Our university administration is in the very early stages of researching how we will work together with the community and as a community," explains DU spokeswoman Kim DeVigil. "We hope to bring together all interested parties, on campus, and in the community, in a collaborative effort of embracing an inclusive future and to do something that is positive, healing and forward-looking."

"A lot of faculty are interested," says professor Alan Gilbert. Particularly some of those faculty members known as "Evans professors," who think a more appropriate title might be "Silas Soule professors," after the captain who refused to participate in the massacre, testified against Chivington before Congress — and was murdered in Denver in 1865 as thanks for his efforts.

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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