Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Today 5 o'clock at City o City; Clarion report on Evans and Sand Creek

I will be speaking at 5 o'clock Thursday evening on the second floor of City o City restaurant (a terrific and inventive vegetarian restaurant and a happening place) at 13th and Sherman in Denver. It is a meeting for Occupy on John Evans and Sand Creek - see here, here and here - and will discuss what its members and others might want to do in the next year for the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek massacre. Everyone locally is invited.


I am also on a University Senate committee at the University of Denver to discuss how to acknowledge Sand Creek in the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the University next year. This is something that our University and Northwestern are both engaged in (John Evans, John Chivington, and Ralph Byers, publisher and editor of the Rocky Mountain News, were all trustees on the original board of the Colorado Seminary which became the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology). We are working together with a committee at Northwestern, formed because of student protest about Evans, to find out and acknowledge the truth (at least that the United States government engaged in ethnic cleansing in the West of which a ghastly zenith was Chivington and Evans' massacre at Sand Creek) and move forward with a more open and acknowledging/accepting of everyone university and community.


We also hope to cooperate with a committee in the Methodist Church. That Church has repudiated the "doctrine of discovery" (that Columbus "discovered" and thus gained property in the New World, that the United States "discovered" and thus gained property across the US. See here.


The University has also rightly given up the "Indian-killer" Daniel Boone as a mascot. The student government has decided no longer to fund groups which celebrate Boone (second story below) and to seek a new and less tainted mascot, one that will move toward a reconciled, non-bigoted future.


Healing will not come easily for a blind racism is still alive at the University. The article from the Clarion also indicates some struggle about this - some alumni and students who suffer from the Founding Amnesia of a settler state, think mistakenly that Boone is a hero. Some "spirit" students chant at hockey games against North Dakota whose mascot is "The Fighting Sioux" (also questionable, down to the attribution of war to indigenous people as opposed to self-defense as Tink Tinker says - see here): "Sue is a girl's name."(h/t Ramona Beltran) This is a masterpiece of racism and patriarchy and might serve to define belligerent ignorance...

The Clarion article gives an impression of the remaining - though fading - controversy. Fewer and older are willing to defend the massacre at Sand Creek for example; and no one who studies Evans's public documents will feel much except ill...


Whether the nickname pioneers can survive this transformation is not clear to me.


The Clarion (the University of Denver student newspaper
Legacy of John Evans under investigation

In collaboration with Northwestern University, DU is investigating school founder John Evans’ involvement with the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, largely considered one of the worst massacres in U.S. history. DU has created the John Evans Study Committee to conduct research for the project.

DU created the committee following the precedent set by Northwestern, which formed its own committee in response to an outcry from the Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance there.

Committee head and Anthropology department chair Dean Saitta said the group wants to acknowledge Evans’ role in the events leading up to Sand Creek, as well as any “unsavory aspects of the university’s history.”

“We want to re-examine how we recognize and honor John Evans’s contributions to the building of DU, and whether there are any other individuals who might also be appropriately recognized and honored on campus as well as in the city,” said Saitta.

The universities will most likely present two separate reports in June 2014. The date marks the 150th anniversary of Sand Creek as well as DU.

“Because of these twin anniversaries we thought it behooved us to look into John Evans’ involvement in the political and economic relationships that led to the appropriation of Indian lands here in Colorado and to events like Sand Creek,” said Saitta.

Gary Alan Fine, the John Evans professor of sociology at Northwestern, said he initially conducted research on the subject in 2004 before students raised interest in the subject last year.

“They then began to pressure the university with my support, my advice and the support and advice of a number of other faculty members,” said Fine.

The students and Fine wrote a joint article about Evans’ involvement in the Daily Northwestern; students also created a petition to get the university to create a petition.

“These terribly brave, wonderful undergraduate students, some of them native, some of them not, they chose to do this,” said Fine. “It was at that point that I became involved again and tried to help them out as much as I could to ensure that the institution provided justice.”

Saitta said DU will share a lot of information with Northwestern and plans to search archives in Denver and elsewhere.

“[We will look at] historical societies, libraries, and anywhere else we can find documentation of Evans’s activities as they relate to Indian relations in Colorado and the founding of DU,” said Saitta.

A faculty colleague referred Saitta to a faculty leader at Northwestern. Upon learning about the project, he discovered other faculty members were interested in the research and called a meeting to plan their approach.

The committee is currently made up of nine members, two of whom are Evans professors, the highest honor a faculty member can achieve at DU.

“The designation honors especially distinguished scholarly and creative work,” said Saitta. “Evans Professors are given an annual monetary award that allows them to continue their work,” said Saitta.

The committee plans to add more members from all over DU and Denver.

“They will include students [such as] members of DU’s Native Student Alliance) and citizens, [such as] members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, people associated with the United Methodist Church,” said Saitta. “We also plan to stay engaged with DU’s administration and the Governor’s Office.”

On Nov. 29, 1864, Colonel John Chivington led over 650 troops in an attack on a band of Cheyenne and Arapaho near Sand Creek, Colorado, according to the National Park Service. Over 150 Native Americans, most of whom were children, women or elderly, were killed. The attack later came to be known as the “Sand Creek Massacre.”

According to Fine [sic - this is the testimony of Silas Soule and Joseph Cramer, full-time Union officers who were at the event), the Arapaho and Cheyenne were flying a white flag of peace.

Abraham Lincoln appointed Evans governor of the Colorado Territory in 1862. He served until 1865, when he was asked by Andrew Johnson’s administration to resign.

Evans co-founded Northwestern in 1851; thirteen years later, he founded the Colorado Seminary, which eventually became DU.

Both schools plan to report their findings in June 2014, the 150th anniversary of the massacre as well as the 150th anniversary of DU’s founding. They will also offer recommendations on how the university should act in response to the report.

Saitta said the committee sees the research as a “teaching moment.”

“[It’s] an opportunity to produce and disseminate knowledge about DU’s founder and founding,” said Saitta. “Perhaps most importantly, we also see it as an opportunity to bring people together to talk, reconcile, and help ease the pain that the Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants of Sand Creek still feel after 150 years."


The Clarion
Boone’s final stand?
Estenson clashes with oppostion on unofficial mascot, role of USG

Tonight at 6 p.m. in Driscoll Underground, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) will discuss a resolution proposing banning the use of club and student activity funding by campus clubs to purchase materials with the image of the Denver Boone mascot.

A student and faculty “task force” formed by student Will Guy and led by Student Body President Sam Estenson has also begun to examine the possibility of instituting a new, official university mascot by next year.

Estenson said the resolution, which will be discussed tonight, proposes that student organizations have 30 days after the implementation of a new official university mascot to phase out all funding for items with Boone’s image.

Estenson also said there is no possibility that Boone will be brought back and re-approved as the official mascot of DU.

“I do not see any future in which Boone will be brought back. We are not entertaining the idea of bringing Boone back,” said Estenson.

“There is a large number of students in the DU community who don’t understand the history of Boone. The idea is that Native American history is being marginalized,” said Estenson. “People argue that the image is cute, that it was drawn by Disney. But the image is unacceptable.”


The resolution has met opposition from student groups and alumni. Sam White, senior class council president and former senate pro tempore of USG, has publicly spoken out in opposition.

“I think Sam, Parker [Parker Calbert, student body vice president], and the entire USG crew have done a very good job up until now,” said White. “Boone has been accepted as a student mascot and no amount of administration or bills USG may write will ever change that.”

Senior Zeke Perez, who acted as Boone for three years, said banning use of student funding on Boone gear and introducing a new mascot would likely not end student use of Boone on campus.

“I don’t know how much it [the resolution] would really do, because the alumni have really done a great job of funding Boone,” said Perez. Much of the Boone gear on campus, including the costume Perez used to wear, is funded through alumni donations.

However, Estenson and the task force created to find a new mascot stand behind their decision.
“The student organization money comes from everyone, it is not appropriate for everyone to pay when some of those purchases can be hurtful,” said Estenson.

Estenson said Tuesday’s legislation was not directly in response to the recent protests of Boone by three members Sof the Native Student Alliance (NSA) at the filming of a DU Harlem Shake video on Feb. 15. However, he called the protests an “impetus” to look at the issue.

USG already has an unspoken agreement against making any purchases of merchandise with Boone’s image, according to Estenson. However, the each organization can currently decide how to spend the money stipulated to them through the student activity fee.

“I understand why students enjoy Boone, but I genuinely believe that if students understood imagery behind Boone, they would not continue to use him,” said Estenson. “The senate has reached a point where we feel it is time to say we will not support him anymore. Yes he is part of our history, but that DU is not the DU we attend anymore.”

However, White disagrees.

“It’s a discussion to be had within the entire student body, not within a group of 30 individuals in which only a few of them have ever participated in school spirit,” he said. “Students are in control of their own school spirit and that won’t change unless it comes from the students itself.”

Task Force

Estenson is also among those leading a task force assembled by Junior Will Guy to find a new mascot for the university. While the discussion on the current USG legislation began last week, the task force formed three weeks ago.

The idea was originally presented to USG by Guy after he met with the chancellor to discuss the idea of finding a new mascot. The chancellor advised him to meet with USG and explain the idea to them.

Guy presented the idea to USG in fall quarter, and three weeks ago they began official preparations on the task force under the leadership of Estenson.

“I thought I would get a little something going when I met with the Chancellor, and it went way beyond my expectations,” said Guy.

The task force has recently prepared an official mission statement. It reads, “We as a student task force are here because there is no mascot around which students can rally that accurately reflects the University of Denver and its identities, beliefs, traditions and what it means to be a pioneer. We shall facilitate the selection of a mascot that empowers, inspires and celebrates the diversity of the University of Denver community. Remembering our history, while pioneering our future, the new mascot will be implemented by a rebranding of University of Denver merchandise and marketing.”

According to Estenson, the task force is working with leaders from many different factions of campus, including Greek Life, Athletics, the Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME), the Office of Student Life, the marketing department and the Provost. All are helping to come up with ideas to find and implement a new mascot. The marketing division is helping to develop an introduction campaign similar to that used to introduce the new logo earlier this year.

Guy said the team is now working on developing an outline for the process. After the first stages are completed, the task force will begin communicating their work to the student body.

“We wanted to make sure we had clear, defined goals for people,” said Guy. “There is already confusion, so we wanted to make sure across the board we could have our bases covered.”

According to Guy, the task force has also started hearing ideas for a new mascot as well, though they are not making any official suggestions at this point. He said they have had suggestions for images such as an astronaut, gold miner, an ox and an elk.

“We want to find something funny and fun, not too offensive,” said Guy. “There becomes an inherent problem with a human-based mascot. You make him look a certain way, and automatically a group will find it offensive.”

The group will eventually open up comments and voting to students on a selected list of mascots.

“We’re hoping that once we provide these alternatives, that everyone will catch on and everyone will understand why Boone isn’t an option,” said Guy. “Now that there has been negative backlash, it is important to say we are coming up with a viable alternative.”

Estenson also said it was important to take time to establish clear goals to the student community.
“There is a lot of misinterpretation about what is going on. Our final goal is to find a new image that is inclusive,” said Estenson.

Identity and Inclusivity

Perez said the loss of Boone could result in the loss of school identity.

While traveling to other states for sports games or to “mascot boot camps,” Perez said the Boone costume was recognizable to many.

“The big thing for me whenever I go to another state people aren’t familiar with me, from what I’ve seen from those out of state and in other parts of the state, it’s definitely a way for them to identify DU,” said Perez.

Perez also expressed concern that the formation of a new mascot and the elimination of Boone would damage the identity of DU as the “pioneers.”

“If you get rid of Boone or any type of pioneer, then what’s the point of being the pioneers?” Perez said. “We have had that name for almost 100 years, if you move away from a human mascot you move away from the name.”

Estenson, however, said Boone no longer represents the image of the University of Denver.

“I am very aware the implementation of a new image is a long process, but we [USG] are in agreement that the longer we promote and allow Boone in this capacity, the more he is hurting the student body and delaying finding an inclusive image,” said Estenson.

Perez also said banning use of student funding for Boone gear and introducing a new mascot would likely not end student use of Boone on campus.

But Perez said he, for one, would be open to the idea of a new official mascot.

“I would be interested to see what they could come up with that represents pioneers,” said Perez. “Regardless, I feel we need a mascot. I think it’s something every school needs. If we were able to decide on one that would be great.”

As for Boone, Estenson also said he would always be part of DU’s history.

“He is in the alumni house now, and he will remain in the alumni house,” said Estenson.
Guy agreed, saying DU needs to find a way to move past Boone.

“I don’t want people to forget our past. But one of the biggest things at this school is redefining what it means to be a Pioneer. It is important where we come from, but what is more important is where we are going,” said Guy.

Boone, DU’s official mascot for 30 years, was eliminated by Chancellor Daniel Ritchie in 1998. Since then, however, students have continued to support the image, and have argued to reinstate him as the official mascot. Though their attempts have been unsuccessful, the visage is still largely used by students on campus, prompting controversy about the history of Boone’s namesake, pioneer Daniel Boone.

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