After student petitioning and meetings with administrators this quarter, Northwestern officials announced Thursday the formation of a committee to investigate the role of University founder John Evans in the late-1800s killing of Cheyenne and Arapaho people by a volunteer militia in southeastern Colorado. The attack, known as the Sand Creek Massacre, is named for the creek near the village where it occurred.
The committee will include both NU faculty members and native studies scholars from outside the University, with a report to be completed by June 2014, according to a University news release.
American studies and history Prof. Carl Smith will chair the committee, according to the release. Other faculty members include history department chair Peter Hayes, religious studies Prof. Laurie Zoloth and history Prof. Dylan Penningroth. A graduate student will also assist in archival research with University archivist Kevin Leonard.
Ned Blackhawk, professor of history and American studies at Yale University, will also participate in the committee’s research, along with University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Frederick Hoxie, a history and American Indian studies professor, and Elliott West, a professor of history at the University of Arkansas.
The 1864 Sand Creek Massacre occurred in Colorado Territory, of which Evans was governor at the time, and resulted in the deaths of about 150 peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne natives. The committee will investigate Evans’ role in the massacre, as well as any financial contributions he made to the University that may have related to exploitation of native peoples.
“We would like to know in detail the nature of John Evans’ relationship with the University when he was territorial governor and afterwards,” NU Provost Daniel Linzer said in the release.
The creation of the committee follows active petitioning efforts and collaborations with NU administrators this quarter by the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance, which formed last spring. The petition calls on the University to officially recognize Evans’ alleged participation in the massacre, as well as the creation of a Native American studies program at NU.
“Obviously that’s only a part of what we’re asking for, but I think it’s a really important first step,” said NAISA co-president Heather Menefee.
However, Menefee said the yearlong timeframe granted to the committee is a bit long and that she would like to see other steps taken by the administration in the meantime.
Adam Mendel, the group’s other co-president, said while he is pleased with the establishment of the committee, he would also like to see other NU students and members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes involved in the process.
“It is their history that we’re dealing with,” the Weinberg senior said.
Despite the positive steps, Mendel said the group will keep pushing for the other aspects of the petition to be realized.
“We’re not planning on going away,” Mendel said.