Governor Jared Polis held a signing ceremony of an executive order on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol this morning that attempts to correct Colorado history regarding the state’s treatment of its Native American population.
The order “rescinds proclamations by Territorial Governor John Evans [the state’s second territorial governor] that shamefully targeted and endangered the lives of the American Indians,” the governor’s office told reporters Monday evening.
Polis was joined on the Capitol steps by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, and members of the Southern Ute, Ute Mountain, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes, as well as other members of Colorado’s American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
Evans held the position of Colorado’s second territorial governor during three years of the Civil War, from 1862 to 1865. While both Mount Evans and the town of Evans are named for him, his record toward the original occupants of Colorado was shameful.
Not only did he not tamp down the mostly irrational fears by settlers that their new settlements, including Denver, would be overrun by Indians, he resigned after being held accountable for the Sand Creek Massacre.
At dawn on November 29, 1864, approximately 675 U.S. volunteer soldiers commanded by Colonel John M. Chivington attacked a village of about 750 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians camped along the Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. They were there per government orders, very near a cavalry fort. Under Evan’s order, the cavalry ordered to travel there slaughtered an entire tribe of peaceful Indians, mostly women, children, and old people. Some cavalry members who were stationed at the fort, who had had contact with the peaceful tribes, refused to participate in the slaughter.
Given his less than stellar performance related to the state’s original occupants, there is a move afoot to rename Mt. Evans; among the most recognizable peaks visible from metro Denver.