Northwestern community responds to new John Evans report

Jeanne Kuang, Campus Editor

Following the University of Denver’s release of its John Evans Study Committee findings, some Northwestern students praised the new report, while a member of NU’s committee defended its own conclusions on the University founder’s role in the Sand Creek Massacre.

DU’s committee, established shortly after NU’s own John Evans Study Committee in early 2013, released its report Monday, finding Evans was “central” to creating conditions in the Colorado Territory — of which he was governor at the time — that made the massacre “possible and even likely.”

“It seems like DU had a better, deeper understanding of the importance of this whole process of trying to go forward and recognizing our past,” said Bienen junior Wilson Smith, co-president of the NU Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance.

Former co-president Heather Menefee, a Weinberg senior, called DU’s report “a relief.”

“DU centered Cheyenne people in their research process, and the result is a strong report and recommendations in contrast to NU’s colonial and dehumanizing report,” she said in an email to The Daily.

DU’s report concluded that Evans, the founder of both universities, was “deeply culpable” in the Sand Creek Massacre, an 1864 attack by American soldiers that killed about 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho people. NU’s report, released in May, found Evans did not directly plan the massacre but retained some responsibility for being “one of several individuals who … helped create a situation that made the Sand Creek Massacre possible.”

NU’s committee chair, English Prof. Carl Smith, defended his report, citing the “remarkable extent to which the findings of both of these reports are very, very similar.”

“The Northwestern report says quite clearly in its conclusion that despite the fact that he may not have had a direct role in the massacre, he was certainly before the fact, one of the people who played a major role in making it possible,” Carl Smith said. “What would be a terrible result of some of this is if the emphasis was on whatever the differences are between the reports, when I think they’re essentially saying something very similar.”

Carl Smith said he was “puzzled” by DU’s choice to devote a section of its report to the two conclusions’ differences.

In an interview with The Daily on Monday, DU’s committee chair, Nancy Wadsworth, said her report broadened the definition of Evans’ culpability in the attack, “whereas Northwestern defined culpability in a narrow instrumental sense.”

Wadsworth added that NU’s report was nevertheless “very critical” of Evans. The NU report characterized Evans’ actions before and after the massacre as “significant moral failures” that the University has ignored.

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Twitter: @jeannekuang

Previous stories on this topic:

    University of Denver finds John Evans ‘central’ to conditions for massacre
    Northwestern releases John Evans report
    Northwestern committee to investigate Evans’ role in Sand Creek Massacre