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John Evans Study Committee Report

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Rebecca Chopp

Letter  •

To the University of Denver campus community:

One hundred and fifty years ago, on Nov. 29, 1864, at an area known as Sand Creek, near the present-day town of Eads, Colo., a group of U.S. militia attacked and killed an estimated 160 women, children and elderly members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. The massacre occurred when John Evans, founder of the University of Denver and of Northwestern University in Illinois, was serving both as governor of the Colorado Territory and as territorial superintendent of Indian affairs.

Over the past year, the University of Denver has been learning about and commemorating this tragic event and its relationship—past, present and future—to the University. To engage the University community, to promote whatever healing is possible and to deepen our relationship with the Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants, we have sponsored public lectures, a documentary screening, exhibits and special healing ceremonies in addition to our annual Spring Powwow and Diversity Summit.

The coming weeks bring additional opportunities to learn and engage, including:

  • A public lecture by Henrietta Mann, noted Southern Cheyenne scholar and elder, from 10:30–noon on Nov. 11 (Anderson Academic Commons, Loft)
  • "Writing Survivance: Indigenous Voices on the 150th Anniversary of Sand Creek" on Nov. 13 & 14 (Nov. 13, 6-8 p.m. Sturm Hall 134; Nov. 14, 4 p.m. Sturm Hall 379; Nov. 14, 6 p.m. Sturm Hall 254)
  • The Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run, scheduled for Nov. 29–Dec. 3

More than a year ago, a group of 11 DU faculty members organized the University of Denver John Evans Study Committee and conducted an independent inquiry regarding Evans' role in the massacre. Today, the committee released its report. (Northwestern issued its report regarding the massacre last spring; it is available here.)

The DU report focuses on events directly leading up to the massacre at Sand Creek and compares Evans' leadership as superintendent of Indian affairs with that of those holding similar positions in Utah and Nevada. The DU report concludes that John Evans was culpable for the Sand Creek Massacre. That is a quite different finding from what appears in the Northwestern University report. There is much to be learned from reading and discussing these reports together, and I encourage you to take the time to read both.

The DU committee hopes its report will promote healing by understanding our founder's role in this catastrophic event—thereby uniting us as a community and helping us to forge new relationships to the past for the benefit of the public good.

The DU committee made a number of recommendations for the University's consideration. Some of these recommendations are currently being pursued:

  • Create public forums to discuss the history of Sand Creek
  • Support the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run
  • Consult with tribes regarding memorial plans

As a community, we will work through the report and its recommendations, and we will review ideas and suggestions from a variety of groups and individuals.

The Sand Creek Massacre is a tragic event in the history of the University, the city of Denver and the state of Colorado. We embrace our obligation to learn about it, to learn from it, and to carry those lessons forward as we continue to realize our vision of being a great private university dedicated to the public good.


Rebecca Chopp
Chancellor, University of Denver