Northwestern Issues Report on One of Its Founder's Links to Massacre of Native Americans

May 30, 2014

Northwestern University on Thursday released an independently prepared report on one of its founders, John Evans, and his links to mistreatment of Native Americans when he was governor of the Colorado Territory. The report concludes that there is no evidence Evans helped plan the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre. The study was commissioned in part because Native American students and others said it would be inappropriate for the university to continue to honor someone linked to that massacre of Native Americans. But the study found that "John Evans nonetheless was one of several individuals who, in serving a flawed and poorly implemented federal Indian policy, helped create a situation that made the Sand Creek Massacre possible." Further, the study found that "his conduct after the Sand Creek Massacre reveals a deep moral failure that warrants condemnation. While he denied any role in the massacre, he refused to acknowledge, let alone criticize, what had happened, even going so far as to defend and rationalize it. Regardless of Evans’s degree of culpability in failing to make every possible effort to protect the Cheyennes and Arapahos when they were most vulnerable, his response to the Sand Creek Massacre was reprehensibly obtuse and self-interested."

Several professorships are named for Evans, as is the city of Evanston, where Northwestern is located.

The report called on Northwestern to present a more balanced view of Evans. "John Evans deserves institutional recognition for his central and indispensable contributions to the establishment of Northwestern and its development through its early decades, but the university has ignored his significant moral failures before and after Sand Creek," the report says. "This oversight goes against the fundamental purposes of a university and Northwestern’s own best traditions, and it should be corrected."

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