Campus & Community

DU community participates in Sand Creek memorial event

Gov. John Hickenlooper addresses participants in the Sand Creek Memorial Walk Wednesday at the Capitol. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Gov. John Hickenlooper addresses participants in the Sand Creek Memorial Walk Wednesday at the Capitol. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Chancellor Rebecca Chopp and Nancy Wadsworth, chair of the University of Denver’s John Evans Study Committee, were among nearly 20 members of the University of Denver community who were present Wednesday at a ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper made an official apology on behalf of the state at the event, which took place at the state Capitol. It was the culmination of the 16th annual Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run, which began Nov. 29 at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site near Eads, Colo. Participants — many of them descendants of victims of the massacre — walked over five days from the Sand Creek site to the steps of the Capitol.

“I just had to think my ancestors did this, so I can do this,” walk participant Miranda Cometsevah, who is of Cheyenne and Arapaho descent, told the Denver Post. “My ancestors would run for their lives, and I didn’t have to do that.”

Wadsworth walked the final mile of the journey with descendants and their supporters and described the experience as “incredibly powerful.”

“We’ve seen folks who are elders, folks who have never been to Denver, who have maybe never been off the reservation, who are making this pilgrimage for the first time,” she said. “We see young people learning about their history, and we see people who have worked really, really hard for many years on the healing run and on this entire process.”

Wadsworth was chair of an independent faculty-organized committee that earlier this month released a report concluding that University founder John Evans was culpable for the massacre, which happened while he was governor of the Colorado Territory and territorial superintendent of Indian affairs. Led by Col. John Chivington, a group of Colorado Territorial militia attacked and killed an estimated 160 women, children and elderly members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

The committee made a number of recommendations for the University’s consideration as it seeks to learn from the tragedy, including creating public forums to discuss the history of Sand Creek and consulting with tribes regarding memorial plans.

“We, like so many in this state, so many in this country, are deeply connected to Sand Creek,” Chancellor Chopp said Wednesday. “Many of our founders, our leaders, were involved in one way or another in this situation, so [this event is] a moment to reflect upon who we are. As a university, we’re about teaching history, we’re about teaching truth, we’re about trying to preserve what happened accurately and also to bring about change so these kind of events will never ever happen again.”

Also present at Wednesday’s event was Laurel Hayden, a second-year graduate student at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the great-great-great-granddaughter of John Evans. She first traveled to the Sand Creek site 16 years ago to take part in the very first healing run.

“It’s really overwhelming,” she said of Wednesday’s memorial event. “This whole experience has been a really good healing process for the Cheyenne and Arapaho, but also for members of my family.

“I think it’s really important that the truth has come out for DU,” Hayden said. “It’s important that the truth comes out about [Evans’] culpability, but it’s also important to focus on what can be done in the future. I’m really interested to see how the recommendations in the DU report are going to play out. I’m excited that it’s being talked about.”

Wadsworth agreed, saying that Wednesday’s event, combined with the Evans report, marks the start of a new age of understanding at the University of Denver.

“I think in some ways we can call it a paradigm shift — the end of one era and the beginning of another one,” she said. “We’re really at the beginning now of establishing new relationships with the Cheyenne and Arapaho that we hope will last a really long time, and that’s something we can do having acknowledged where we’ve been and what our links are to this history and how profound they are. That acknowledgement enables us to take a step forward into a new horizon.”



One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *