Campus & Community

University releases report on founder’s role in Sand Creek Massacre

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 the event and its relationship — past, present and future — to the University. The University has 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 and 14 (Nov. 13, 6-8 p.m., Sturm Hall 134; Nov. 14, 4 p.m., Sturm Hall 379, and 6 p.m,. Sturm Hall 254)
  • The Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run, a state-sponsored event 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,” says University of Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp. “There is much to be learned from reading and discussing these reports together.”

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

  • 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,” Chopp says. “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.”



  1. Anne Pennington says:

    Thank you for publishing these reports. Ever since reading several books re: treatment of Arapahoe and Cheyenne Native Americans and having learned about Chivington when I was in elementary school, I have been saddened and felt ashamed by involvement of Evans in the Sand Creek Massacre. I look forward to attending sessions on the subject. Has anyone invited author Margaret Coel to attend?

  2. Linda Davis Young says:

    Thank you for publishing this learned report. My great-grandfather was a pioneer and the first sheriff of Weld County. I am so glad that your enlightened committee has enlightened me about my shameful ancestry. I will immediately take the pioneer plates from my car so that I can destroy them. Now I can finally begin to “heal.”

    Have you brilliant scholars ever thought that there should be camps for people like me and my descendents? Do you want to allow us to continue to pollute the great American gene pool?

    Finally, DU should be vacated and the land returned to the native peoples. Think what wonderful hotels and casinos could occupy the beautiful buildings. The Hotel and Restaurant School should be allowed to remain in order to help with the transition.

    Thank you again for your good work.


    Linda Davis Young – B.A. 1964. M.A. 1966

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