Northwestern releases John Evans report, committee concludes he had no direct involvement in massacre but University ignored ‘significant moral failures’

Northwestern released Thursday a report detailing NU founder John Evans’ involvement in the Sand Creek Massacre, finding no evidence that Evans was directly involved in planning the massacre but that the University ignored his moral failures both before and after Sand Creek.

The report was released by the John Evans Study Committee, a group formed last year to investigate whether Evans played a role in the massacre. Members of the committee included English Prof. Carl Smith, committee chair, and several other senior scholars from NU and universities across the country.

The report concluded Evans, the governor of Colorado at the time, did not know about the massacre in advance, but says he retains some responsibility in an attack by U.S. Army cavalry soldiers that killed about 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho people.

“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,” the committee said in the report.

The report finds Evans failed to fulfill his responsibilities as superintendent of Indian affairs, and that his response to the massacre was “reprehensibly obtuse and self-interested.”

Although the report says Evans “favored using deadly force against hostile Indians,” it cites evidence suggesting Evans “did not consider the Indians at Sand Creek to be a threat and that he would have opposed the attack that took place.”

Still, the committee found NU has “ignored his significant moral failures before and after Sand Creek,” including his refusal to criticize or even acknowledge the massacre.

“This oversight goes against the fundamental purposes of a university and Northwestern’s own best traditions, and it should be corrected,” the committee wrote in a news release.

NU administrators lauded the work done by the committee in producing the 113-page document.

“We very much appreciate the significant effort that the committee members made in researching and writing this important study,” Provost Dan Linzer said in the release. “By asking a group of distinguished scholars to do this research, we were confident that we would receive an unbiased and thorough report, and I look forward to reading it.”

During the investigation, members of the committee visited the massacre site in Colorado in addition to analyzing archives and libraries and engaging in conversations with other scholars. The report will be used to advise the task force formed earlier this year, focused on understanding the issues the Native American community faces at NU and forging a better relationship with the University.

“This report will be very helpful in informing the work of the Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force,” Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs and co-chair of the task force, said in the release. “We will read the report carefully and develop the appropriate responses to this information as we move forward on our work.”

The Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force was scheduled to be formed after the committee released its initial report, but was fast-tracked and formed earlier this year. The committee consists of students, faculty and members from other universities and organizations.

The committee called on the University to provide Native Americans increased access to an NU education and to make the study of Native American history and cultures more accessible to NU students.

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