Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Correspondance with Gary Roberts: the Exterminators
Gary L. Roberts published "Written in Blood," the pathbreaking article co-authored with David Halaas on Soule's and Cramer's letters in 2000 here. In the middle 1860s, the letters had served as vital evidence - along with their testimony until Soule was murdered - in the two Federal investigations of the Sand Creek Massacre. But they were then lost for 135 years.
As Halaas told me, a woman had brought family papers to David, then head of the Colorado History Department, in the year 2000. Buried within them, David found the typescript of the Soule and Cramer letters. He immediately called Gary in shock and delight.
This was two months before the Senate hearing in 2000, in which Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell read these letters into the Congressional record as his speech - that was all he did - about why they should create this rare monument to a government atrocity. Sand Creek still stands out in this way, even in the epoch-long genocide against indigenous people. The Congress voted overwhelmingly to create the Memorial.
Gary, who wrote a two volume thesis on Sand Creek, is just completing his book, hopefully to come out on the 150th anniversary of the Massacre in 2014. He has now worked on the Massacre for some 40 years.
His letters to me are especially illuminating on the subject of fear and visceral racism in America, how seemingly decent people - "good Germans," "good Americans" during Vietnam - could do or support the atrocities at Sand Creek and many others. The West, as in the founding of Denver, was drenched in the evil of Sand Creek and broadly similar, if not quite as barbaric, slaughters. Indigenous people heroically fought back against American aggression, but as many realized in trying, hopelessly, to make peace with the aggressors, the troops and settlers were "like locusts"- see Dee Brown, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee. This is a tragedy and one which will take an epoch, starting from recognition of the truth, dispelling the Founding Amnesia about "a new world," an ostensibly uninhabited "virgin land," to begin to heal. See here, here, here and how these myths hang on in the battle against the racist naming of the Colorado History Museum's exhibit on Sand Creek misnamed "Collision" here.
For instance, the notion of "Apache blood" was long central in Hollywood. The idea that "Indian Country" is a dangerous place, where "savages" will murder "civilized" "Christian" "cowboys" and emigrants shadows America; the military still dwells in it as the Colonel's phrase about Iraq as "Indian country" in trying to incite his troops for the aggression in 2003 reveals here.
No thought of what the cowboys or settlers are doing in the West, or in the East, moving across the country, dispossessing and murdering the human beings who were there, enters "American" rhetoric. And yet "cowboys and indians," once a common game among children and on television (without taking in the indigenous point of view) is fading.
The celebration of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett - except for a movement based on Walt Disney to restore the racist emblem of Boone as a symbol at the University of Denver - see the Denver Post here - has generally faded.
There is instead, a widespread Founding Amnesia about how the land was acquired, who was the aggressor, who defending their lands.
Settler colonialism is never just. It is always aggression. It has always been met with self-defense, crushed only by weaponry and numbers, but not by right.
That core moral claim is warded off only by intense racism. But see through the racism and the truth will out. The case, morally speaking, inverts...
Through conquest and oppression/expulsion, settler colonialism creates some claim - the fact of settlers on the ground - to reach a decent settlement defending the human rights of all. Such a settlement was often offered by indigenous people, who were again and again dispossessed, the border ever shifting, and, yet again, expelled.
In contrast, a decent settlement requires a halt to the ethnic cleansing and the full recognition of the indigenous as equals. Such a settlement has thus yet to occur, for first nations, in any case I am aware of (South Africa is for the majority but not the indigenous - see here - a counterexample).
In the correspondence, Gary tracks John Evans' later statements about the Sand Creek Massacre. Evans defended Sand Creek and Chivington as just part of hostilities to suppress indians who were fighting whites. Sometimes, given the revulsion at the soldiers' testimonies - at two different US hearings - combined with the murder of Silas Soule a week after he testified in Denver, Evans had to claim that he personally had nothing to do with Sand Creek.
There are three facts, however, which define Evans' special role in creating and licensing the massacre at Sand Creek.
First, he ordered "the destruction and killing" of "all hostile Indians" without distinction of warriors and civilians, of man, woman or child, even toddlers. See his First and Second Proclamations here. That is a crime of war, and one largely ignored in the later indictment of Sand Creek (the Proclamation was published by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War but not commented on; they were appalled at the murders of toddlers and mutilations of women among friendly Indians, as they recognized the victims at Sand Creek to be).
Second, Evans and Chivington met with Black Kettle and other indigenous leaders who risked their lives to come in to Camp Weld in Denver with Major Wynkoop. They thus obeyed Evans's Proclamation calling for friendly Indians to come to named forts. Subsequently, they did everything Evans, Wynkoop and Scott Anthony requested and were given the impression they had succeeded. At the least, they did not expect, peacefully encamped under an American flag, to be sneakily (and cowardly) butchered...
But at the Camp Weld meeting, Governor Evans had refused to make peace with them, saying that it was up to General Samuel Curtis. That sent the message to Chivington, who was also a participant in that meeting - see here - that these peaceful indigenous people were "fair game" to be murdered.
Worse yet, Chivington, with Evans present, told Black Kettle and Bull Bear to go to Major Edward Wynkoop at Fort Lyon as if that would make peace. It seemed - except that Chivington was a monster - that obeying his words meant at least protection from him as a war leader/butcher of the US military.
The indigenous people moved to Fort Lyon and turned in their weapons.
Once again, they had, as the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War reported - see here - every reason to think they were at peace. The statement of the Joint Committee, wondering how "beings in human form" could have carried out a massacre of friendly and determinedly peaceful indians, camped under an American flag and a flag of truce, is worth reading in depth. See here.
As the Commmittee said, if these were not friendly indigenous people, there were no such people. This terrible indictment - "it is not clear who Evans would have considered friendly" - echoes like a sudden gunshot from the report and even appears - Evans tries to mock it - in his letter of response to his firing by Secretary of State Seward to the people of Colorado. See here.
To the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the Civil War, Captain S.M. Robbins, one of the witnesses who supported the atrocity, spoke in "the Chivington interest." He suggested that Chivington, hoping with Evans to get elected as Republican Congressman and Senator when Colorado became a state. did it to appeal for votes. Here are his words:
"I should like to say a friendly word...in the Chivington interest...The point I wish to make is, that perhaps Colonel Chivington may have been forced into this by the sentiment of the people.
Question: Would the sentiment of the people lead a man to attack Indians who were known to be friendly, and who were known to be trying to avert hostilities?
Answer: I should say it would. They wanted some Indians killed; whether friendly or not they did not stop to inquire." (See Joint Commission Report here; Alexander Saxton, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic, p. 281)
That is Chivington's "defense." If a Thoreau, a Gandhi or a Socrates calls for being a "majority of one" against a mob (the latter is a defective or pseudo-democracy, one opposing a common good), John Chivington was the Satan (I am speaking of him as a long celebrated Methodist, though the Methodist Church has now recognized the ethnic cleansing of indigenous people; it denounced the "doctrine of discovery" of the Catholic Churches, the John Marshall Supreme Court and the murders of indigenous people across America - see here), leading the mob which murdered toddlers, cut babies out of wombs, and mutilated women for "trophies"...See here.
The Joint Committee's Report, speaking in horror and revulsion, can hardly imagine that "beings in human form" could do this...
That there was something out of the ordinary here was clear (the Federal government did not see what it was routinely doing to indigenous people as something decent human beings should have been repelled by...).
The third pillar of the case against Evans is from an interview with H.H. Bradford, for whom the Univesity of California at Berkeley Library is named, in 1884. Bradford did an interesting kind of oral history. This interview, as Carl Smith, on the Northwestern Committee to investigate the relationship between the massacre, the railways and the development of the University, discovered bizarrely cuts off abruptly before the discussion of Sand Creek. It does so both in the Northwestern copy and in the Bradford library copy of the University of California.
But in doing research for The Rise and Fall of the White Republic (h\t Tracy Mott), Alexander Saxton studied the whole version. Saxton was a great historian, a radical and novelist, who went back to UCLA to get a Ph.D., and focused on the racism of the leadership of the early American labor movement, notably the AFL and Samuel Gompers, toward Asians. He was one of the initiators of Asian-American studies. See here. What I have done in this series of documents on Evans is to analyze Evans's own words to make the case above about who he was. Until we can get hold of the original document, I will, however, use Saxton's citations on this.
Evans had been raised a Quaker and Quakers often, as with opposing bondage, opposed settler barbarities toward indigenous people (See my Black Patriots and Loyalists, ch. 2; Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America, p. xx-xxii). But Evans had, partly for political reasons, become a Methodist. He was an industrial entrepreneur, profiting from the railways, and a would-be political one. He was appointed Indian Agent as well as Governor of the Colorado territory by Abraham Lincoln. He needed a justification for wiping out even friendly indians, driving them from the Colorado territory.
Evans saw white civilization in a Lockean vein as more productive and indigenous people being merely under the control of a higher civilization, allowed but temporarily to hunt on but with no right to the land they lived on. He reworded the "doctrine of discovery" with this Lockean point (see Locke's Second Treatise in which Locke maintains falsely that the poorest he in England lives better "than a King in America." Actually, day laborers lived in misery in England, exploited and often tyrannized by their employers; indigenous people lived freely and communally as part of tribes in the United States. The racism in Locke's view is thick. See the decisive correction of Locke - that men in the state of nature are free, "red, white and black," by the English pamphleteer against bondage J. Philmore, Two Dialogues Concerning the Man-trade, 1760 discussed in my Black Patriots and Loyalists, ch. 2.
Evans thus thought all treaties signed with indigenous people were unnecessary, overridden by a "higher right of civilization." He thought them harmful (from the settler point of view) as well. He even attributed the "indian wars," the fact that indigenous people resisted conquest, to the U.S. government offering any legitimacy to them through treaties. The bizarrely patriarchal and arrogant stupidity of Evans - a murderous one - needs to be taken in here. As Saxton reports on the Bradford interview:
"It can hardly come as a surprise, then, to find Evans in later years mulling over arguments already well used in the days of Jefferson and Adams. Rightful possession of land must rest on effective agricultural practice in supporting a population. Thus justified, Evans could ridicule 'the proposition that a country a thousand miles long and five hundred miles wide, one of the most fertile in the world, should belong to a few bands of roving Indians, nomadic tribes in fee as their property (Evans Interview, P-L 329, folder 2-6, Bradford Library). Given the self-evident absurdity of such a proposition, was it not perverse to reinforce it by negotiating treaties of purchase with Indians? National sovereignty should have no truck with purchase. Burned clean by the struggle against secession, the nation, for Evans, had become the only source of right."
Evans insists that the US government simply steal the land, without any treaties or pretense of recognition of the people who were there.
"Knowing that his Quaker heritage must cry out against such a doctrine, he found himself obligated to settle accounts with that heritage. William Penn, he told an interviewer in 1888, had been mistaken to teach that Indians owned the land they lived on:
'...nearly all the Indian wars have resulted from the fact that the Indians took in that doctrine which was acknowledged by the U.S. government...and that we had to buy it of them by treaty or purchase, instead of teaching them...that they had a right to hunt on the land, but that right must be subject to the higher occupation of the land, for a larger population and for civilization. Their wildness should have been impressed upon them from the beginning...'" (Interview, ibid, pp. 19-20; Saxton, pp. 284-85)
That this is a monologue in Evans's head is revealed by the mind-boggling racism of this statement. What people, living on land, would be convinced by aggressors coming and proclaiming: "we are civilized and you are WILD...we are more productive than you, therefore give us your land and retire into reservations..."
Evans was a leader, as Major Edward Wynkoop names it, in the party of Exterminators. That term summarizes why all the dubbing of towns - Evanston - and mountains and boulevards and professorships for John Evans is a mistake.
Evans kept trying to tell himself a story that would sanction his rapaciousness.
There is no such story...
But Evans saying against the Government, "we can take the land - it is ours - without even a treaty with the people who live there" is the enemy of morality, law, civilization and decency...It underlines the horror of what he did in licensing all women and children to be killed, no "hostile" ones allowed to come in with friendly ones, by the forts, and to designate Black Kettle and the others "hostile" in spite of all their actions to the contrary. It is what he said to attempt, as a Methodist, to banish the reality that he had, effectively, licensed Chivington to do the atrocities at Sand Creek.
Thus, remarkably, the US government which broke every treaty with indigenous people - destroyed by violence every attempt to settle with them by indigenous people who were in constant retreat, emblemized by the five tribes in Georgia and Mississippi driven out by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 - see Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams, appears, in retrospect, more decent than Evans.
In the case of Sand Creek, the government knew the right thing to do. Even in proposing and signing the ethnic cleansing Treaty of Little Arkansas in 1865, expelling indigenous people to the South and out of their homelands, it promised reparations for the Massacre.
These have, however, so far, never been paid...
John Evans stood for genocide without even a facsimile of law, and against all such treaties. He was thus an extremist even among "the exterminators."
Evans said he was for self-defense against Indian attacks. From an aggressor and conqueror, this is an apology. He was, instead, for large scale ravaging - "punishment" - of native Americans of which Sand Creek is the emblem.
Evans was good on the evil of slavery. As a Quaker and then a Methodist, he sometimes sought to "do good." But he also got into the railways. And as an Indian Agent, his desire to clear indigenous people out for "civilization" - to become an "Exterminator" grew.
Many Americans, particularly ordinary ones, when not in a paroxysm of racism (see Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbors) did not go along with this genuine savagery. See Leo Tolstoy, Christianity and Patriotism for a surprising emphasis on the purposefulness of such campaigns). In the middle British colonies before the American Revolution, Silver's view (p. cvi, xvii-xviii, xxi), described in Gary's letters as stressing an "anti-Indian sublime" traces the standard campaigns to build through displays of mutilated bodies a revulsion at indigenous people, based on fear, and an attempt to exterminate them.
Similarly, near Denver in 1864, the bodies of the Hungate family were buried and dug up twice - something very strange - before being taken to the town to be displayed. They were put out by the leading Methodists John Evans, John Chivington and Ralph Byers, to mobilize the fear and passion of the settlers, not just to capture particular killers, but to murder all - including peaceful - indigenous people. That was the root of Captain Robbins' testimony "in the Chivington interest."
Displaying bodies was thus part of a long standing way - a kind of artificial drama - of building sentiment for Extermination.
Jeff Broome has shown that Hungate himself had shot a native american for stealing horses. See here. Hungate and his family were then attacked. But David Halaas told the DU committee looking into Sand Creek, basing himself on the detective work of Jeff Campbell who is now looking into this with intensity, that there are further mysteries to be unravelled here. Campbell located the place of the massacre, as Ari Kelman records at the conclusion of The Misplaced Massacre - 2012. For instance, a large number of moccasins were ostensibly found at the Hungate residence, but there were not a large number of indigenous people running off horses, let alone leaving moccasins - this seems planted "evidence"....
In 1888, Evans' words expressed madness, though they could also be used to "justify" the many Sand Creeks all across the country, something routine though with not quite the Chivington mutilation of babies and foetuses.
Evans' memory of Sand Creek had not faded. The particular horrors of Sand Creek follow from and are "licensed" by Evans' view.
This view banishes the long trail of American government breach of treaties or dishonor because the US government, Evans asserts, could do with "lesser human beings" what it wished. See Dee Brown, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee.
In the correspondence, Gary and I broadly contrast the exterminating views of Chivington and Evans, and the different racism of those who did not want to kill and dispossess those native americans who wished to make peace and sought, through division of friendly from hostile Indians, to attenuate the intensity of war and slaughter. See here. The description of how Edward Wynkoop came to this, given in Saxton, p. 278, is particularly valuable.
"'Hearing at times of outrages committed by the Red Man I [Wynkoop] naturally at one time belonged to the exterminators, my youthful experience had not taught me the why and wherefore of these outrages, I did not stop to inquire whether an Indian when he killed a white man or run off cattle was justifiable or not...The conviction of having been unjust in my opinion in regard to the Indian character was caused by the following incident, and my subsequent experience enabled me to see the injustice often practiced toward a race which I have known in many instances to exhibit nobler traits than their oppressors." "Edward Wynkoop'a Unfinished Colorado History, 1870," typescript, Colorado Historical Society, p. 28.'
Wynkoop then depicts the delivery of the message of peace by One Eye - later murdered at Sand Creek - against Wynkoop's orders to shoot to kill "hostiles" and thus, at the risk of his life.
"In command of the small garrison at Fort Lyon, surrounded by 'five of the hostile tribes,' [Wynkoop] had given orders 'to kill all Indians that could be reached.' When a sergeant brought in two Indian prisoners, Wynkoop reprimanded him for failure to obey orders; the sergeant explained that 'in the act of firing he observed one of the Indians hold up a paper and make signs of peace....'
The paper turned out to be a letter written by a half-breed in the Cheyenne band stating that the Indians were anxious for peace; that they had been forced to war by the whites; that in all their efforts to communicate with the fort they had been driven off; and that they held white captives 'whom they wished to deliver up.'"
Note that Wynkoop's exterminating orders justify the indigenous people in taking captives for self-protection. No exchange or meetings would have been possible without this, no learning, as on Wynkoop's account.
"Wynkoop asked the two messengers if they had not known they would be fired on when they approached the fort. The older replied that he had taken the chance hoping that even if he were killed the letter would be found and 'might give peace' to his people once more. The younger said he came because he 'would not let old One Eye come alone...I was bewildered with an exhibition of such patriotism' Wynkoop wrote in his memoir; '...and these were the representatives of a race that I had heretofore looked upon without exception as being cruel, treacherous, and blood-thirsty without feeling or affection for friend or kindred.'" "Wynkoop's Unfinished History," pp. 29, 30. Saxton, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic, p. 278.
How much risk it took to penetrate extraordinarily murderous prejudices - Wynkoop names himself part of the "Exterminators" - is startling in this account.
Without having some children to exchange, One Eye and Black Kettle had no hope to reach the whites. One Eye came at the risk of his life and was almost shot to reach Wynkoop, to respond to Evans' First Proclamation which had seemingly called upon friendly Indians to come in..
Wynkoop then risked his life to reach Black Kettle - see here. At Camp Weld, Black Kettle records the additional coming through fire to reach Denver. See here.
This gives further depth, beyond the Joint Cmmittee report, to the efforts of indigenous people and decent (i.e not murderously racist) soldiers on the US government side to make a peaceful settlement...
Here is Gary's first letter to David Halaas:
"Sent: 6/3/2013 12:06:27 P.M. Mountain Daylight Time
Subj: RE: Correspondence from Northwestern...
Unfortunately, my copies of Evans' Bancroft Statements were Photostats from microfilm, and they have long since faded. There are actually two interviews, P-L 329 and P-L 23. I do have Harry Kelsey's notes on Evans material at the Bancroft. He deals with Indian matters at some length. Actually there are five folders. From Folder 5, there is a lengthy commentary on Evans' achievements written by Lionel Sheldon. At p. 35, the commentary notes that in the fall, "the Indians showed signs of yielding, and finally large parties came in, surrendered and were place in Camp in Sand Creek." The narrative notes that Evans then went to Washington and that after his departure, Col. Chivington decided to attack Sand Creek. This caused much bad feeling in the country and resulted in "adverse criticisms" of Evans. "He made a reply which was completely exculpatory."
The narrative blames his failure to negotiate a treaty of peace on General Curtis. "Governor Evans had no knowledge of the Sand Creek affair before or at the time it occurred. Col. Chivington may have regarded it as an act of chastisement and within the scope of General Curtis' orders.
"No man had clearer or broader views touching the proper treatment and education that should be given the Indians that Governor Evans. His philanthropic and humanitarian sentiments have been manifested throughout his life, and they have incited him to acts of benevolence and charity rarely equaled toward people in whatever condition, but he also comprehends the duty when in authority to protect the peaceable and defenseless. This labor in the management of Indian affairs in Colorado both in peace and war were incessant and effective for good, and at all times he was controlled by the most commendable motives.
Elsewhere, J. W. Wright (although unnamed) is blamed for Evans being associated with Sand Creek. "President Lincoln however knew and confided in him, and gave assurances that he would take care of the matter of the removal." This interesting comment was added, "Senator Wade, a member of the committee on the conduct of the war became the warm friend of Governor Evans and stated he signed the report without understanding its exact character." Evans' resignation, by this account, was the result of Lincoln's assassination and a new president who was not sympathetic to him.
There is also a statement by Mrs. Evans in which she takes care to disassociate her husband from Chivington. One of the most interesting comments is Bancroft's own comment from his "Colorado Notes" written in 1884: "About Ex-Governor Evans and his son-in-law Judge Elbert there is much humbug. They are cold-blooded mercenary men, reading to praise themselves and each other profusely, but who have in reality but little patriotism."
In Chapters XVIII and XIX of my dissertation, there are materials related to his defense. Both the CENTRAL CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE and the NORTHWESTERN CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE took the position that the governor's REPLY exonerated him of blame. In 1867, Evans wrote a lengthy letter to the NEW YORK TRIBUNE in response to a letter by Samuel F. Tappan. There he took essentially the same stance that he did elsewhere. He defended Colorado and distanced himself from Sand Creek.
A few other random thoughts:
Chivington was ordained as a deacon on August 31, 1851, and as an elder on October 10, 1852. He later served as presiding elder of the Omaha District and the Rocky Mountain District. According to the 1856 Minutes of the Kansas & Nebraska Annual Conference, Chivington was preaching at Omaha. In 1857 he was appointed Steward if the Kansas and Nebraska Conference but was excused "by vote of conference". He also served on the Education Committee and introduced a motion thanking Nebraska City for its hospitality to the conference. In 1859, he was appointed to the Committee on Missions. In 1861 he attended the Kansas Annual Conference. He was involved in supporting proposals from the educational committee. Those speaking for the motion included "Brother John M. Chivington, Prof. Loomis, and Dr. Evans of Chicago [please note]. Chivington was also reported "located" in 1862. The hand-written notes indicate that he was "located" at his own request. The conference records should quash any claim that he was simply a lay preacher.
Alan's plan to visit Evanston is a good one. In the 1970s I corresponded with the Northwestern University Library and was referred to the Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary at Evanston. The seminary indicated to me that they had one of the strongest collections on Methodism in America. They also referred me to the School of Theology at Boston University, Divinity Schools at Drew and Duke Universities, and the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. For my purposes it proved unnecessary to visit these collections, but they should give us a sense of direction.
I'm going to have to check out Alexander Saxton's book, although even the title makes me suspicious. Based on the comments here, Saxton apparently uses the Utes to prove that Evans was "good" to the Indians [this is in response to a previous letter from me; Evans paid Chief Ouray of the Utes a substantial salary and persuaded the Utes to settle as sheep farmers, before he came to focus murderously on the Cheyenne and Arapahoe). That is a highly presumptuous assumption. I do think that part of the mix is understanding 19th century ethnocentrism, which, I would argue, infected the thinking of Tappan and Wynkoop as well as of Chivington and Tappan. The reformers had their own brand of ethnocentrism, and it might be interesting to see the position, broadly speaking, of the Church toward Native Americans in general.
I still have some files to go through, and if I run across the Evans interview(s), I will be in touch.
Hope all is well.
And my response:
Date: Mon, 3 Jun 2013
Below my comments is a long thoughtful note from Gary Roberts, full of information.
Several points. a) The common defense of Evans by Sheldon that is in folder five of the file neglects that Evans called for murdering all the hostile indians, including women and children, in his First Proclamation as well as forbidding at Camp Weld, a meeting he wanted not even to hold, members of these tribes from coming in with friendly indians...The Camp Weld meeting guaranteed that there would be no friendly indians, as the Joint Committee reported. In the letter to the New York Tribune, Gary reports that Evans defended Colorado and distanced himself from Sand Creek. This would be the only place he did that (his standard "defense" is that indian attacks were plentiful in a war; that hardly justifies a surprise attack butchering all the indians who were at peace). It will be interesting to find his wording and sadly for those who would extenuate Evans, one cannot defend the ethnic cleansers of Colorado while eschewing Sand Creek. b) For in this context, the acceptance of Evans's defense presupposes immense racism toward indigenous people, and has no intellectual or moral weight. Various statements at the time, from the Christian Advocate newspapers for example, that Evans' motives were "commendable" are bizarrely racist. c) Gary makes a fine distinction highlighting the racism or bent to carry out ethnic cleansing, gradual or involving resettlement (the Whigs), or Exterminator/genocidal (Chivington, Evans). But d) he denies too easily the significance of Evans's work with Chief Ouray and the Utes. Evans was willing to have them settle as sheep herders, but had fixed - on grounds he apparently made clear in the interview and served his railway interests - on clearing hunting people out given the "right of a higher civilization" (see the quote from Evans reproduced above). The two kinds of racism in Evans shaded into one another, his role as a paternalist "indian agent" transformed into a merciless initiator of genocide.
My impression of Saxton, who is an extraordinary and pathbreaking historian (I met him once at a conference, see Gary Nash's remarks about his and his role in assessing the racism of the AFL toward Asian-Americans here) is that his work is mainly exceptional. He is no apologist for Evans - calls him an "Exterminator"; he is just trying to see his position whole. On the other hand, I am not sure of the class analysis in the chapter (not sure even that it works, let alone in speaking of advancing the railways as Industrial Extermination) and it is not hard line from the point of view of indigenous people, that is, in this case, the human point of view on the matter. It is fine to understand Lincoln's or even Evans' motives but pointless to apologize for ethnic cleansing - if indigenous people are hunan, then the moral judgments are clear and swift...
On Methodism, their chief doctrine was, with John Marshall and the Popes at the time of Columbus, "the doctrine of discovery." This is treated in a more Lockean way by John Evans in his remarks about a superior civilization. Chivington was lionized among Methodists for whom racism was intense. But the doctrine of discovery and Chivington have now been repudiated by all the Protestant churches, led by the Methodists. The same should apply to Evans and Byers.
Gary, do you know where Evans' letter to the Tribune in 1867 is available (I tried running it down on the web briefly, but will look for an archive of the Tribune - if you know a short cut or where it is located, please let me know)?
All the best,
I'm still trying to track down some of the sources. Sam Tappan, at the time one of the peace commissioners, was interviewed by the NEW YORK TRIBUNE, which appeared in the August 13, 1867 issue. In the article he traced the origins of the troubles in 1864 directly to the policies of Evans and Chivington. The letter provoked a strong reaction in the West, and on September 6, 1867, Evans responded. He denied that the Indian war originated in Colorado but linked Colorado's difficulties to the Minnesota uprising of 1862. He traced his efforts to secure peace. He denied that troops were held in Colorado for political reasons and accused Tappan of acting out of political ambition. He claimed Colorado was under attack and justified the general response of the settlers. He avoided the subject of Sand Creek and concentrated on alleged atrocities committed by the Cheyennes and Arapahos. He added, "Even if there have been wrongs committed, it does not prove those who magnify them to be worthy of special confidence, nor all the people of the border to be barbarians."
This strikes me as consistent with the pattern he established in his "Reply" to the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. He emphasized his efforts to deal with the Indians and their attacks on the settlements, then stopped short of endorsing Sand Creek or Chivington with weasel words. He was trying to satisfy the Coloradans who favored Sand Creek while trying to clear his skirts with his political allies back east. He walked a razor, and even the NORTHWESTERN CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE, December 27, 1865, bought it. Referring to Evans' "Reply," the paper said, "The Governor has published his own refutation, and its array of logic and facts was unanswerable." It said further, "there has been no testimony which has involved Governor Evans in wrong. On the contrary there is evidence that while his care saved the population of the territory from massacre, he was also the protector of the lives and rights of friendly Indians." The CENTRAL CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE said in October 1865 that Evans' "defense is triumphant." My research suggests very different conclusions both as to role and to motive.
The NORTHWESTERN CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE, August 16, 1865, begged Chivington to clear his name of the charge of slaughtering women and children. At one point, the editor wrote of arguments for extermination on the frontier, "We hesitate to accept a theory so utterly at war with Christianity, and so repugnant to human instincts. We concede the ignorance, the brutality, the fiendishness of Indian warfare, but Christians must not, even in war, be brutal or fiendish." I'm not sure exactly what I deny "too easily" with respect to Evans and the Utes. My sense of it is that the Utes posed less of a direct threat to his economic goals and were not "in the way" on the overland routes to the east.
I have to read Saxton before I can appropriately respond to his division of Republicans. My general view is that there was a consensus among whites that the indigenous peoples had to "give way" to the "higher claims" of "civilization." The real question was how that would happen. Extermination was embraced by some from the beginning, but it became more acceptable over time to many who were horrified at the thought in the beginning. I think that the acceptance of extermination was more visceral and emotional than a political ideology. That is the most terrifying thing--that ordinary people could be sucked into the vortex of hate to the point that they would embrace practices that formerly would have sickened them.
I can't help but wonder if Evans read the book by Charles S. Bryant, A HISTORY OF THE GREAT MASSACRE BY THE SIOUX INDIANS IN MINNESOTA. It was published in 1863, and, as such provides a contemporary rationale for the course that Evans and Chivington pursued. Bryant writes at length about what he calls "the great law of right." He justifies extermination "on the principle of mental and material progress." In two pages, 48-49, Bryant justifies the use of brute force. Now, this is not the first book to offer such a view, but I find it intriguing that it was published early in 1863 and that Evans used Minnesota as part of his explanation of what happened in Colorado. At the very least it provides a contemporary justification of the things that Evans did.
Alan, I will do my best to track down the articles from the TRIBUNE quickly. I'm enjoying the exchange.
The correspondence is valuable and I admire your learning on this and look forward to reading the new book...
The Lockean claim about "higher civilization" from Evans which is cited in Saxton (two letters ago) is a very striking version. It is a variant on, but different from the "doctrine of discovery" (the John Marshall decision, the Methodist church). Are there other variants of this at the time (sounds like Bryant's is a leading candidate?), or is Evans' and perhaps Bryant's - I like Saxton's term Exterminating [Saxton got this from Major Wynkoop] or ethnic cleansing – the spelled out version?
Aside from Saxton (whose characterization I am not sure of and I suspect from your letter that we just agree on the matter - certainly, your point about the visceral racism is true and disturbing...), there seem to me to be two variants of racism. The first is that the "discoverer, more productive, higher, white Christian civilization" (all vicious constructs) has the right to cordon off narrowly indigenous people to become like them. This is true in Georgia and Mississippi, where many Americans - about a million out of an American population of thirteen million - protested against the Indian Removal Act. That was, however, the comparatively decent form of settlement.
The second, sharply in Chivington and Evans (and Jackson and the Indian Removal Act, and the war against the Dakota in Minnesota) was that the indigenous people had to be murdered and driven out - and then forgotten. Some of the Treaties reflect this (the Treaty of 1851 which brought the Utes, Cheyenne and Arapahoe to the Colorado territory). This includes the murder of women, children, the elderly and noncombatants. It is, as Michael Walzer says in Just and Unjust Wars, one of the great crimes of war.
As a variant to the first but leading to and in some ways, requiring the second (i.e. Evans and Chivington did Sand Creek to scare indigenous people out of Colorado), native americans were to be driven out and resettled - i.e. war leading to the indigenous people being pushed West into unsettled territories like Colorado, a temporary resettlement, and then on.
But as the "frontier" was settled, the indigenous were cordoned off on reservations, forced into agriculture. A few like the Utes adapted some; most were reduced to poverty. Every treaty was broken; no reparations even those promised after Sand Creek, given.
Various people on both sides could combine the two - i.e. Evans as an Indian Agent furthered the first version for "friendly" Indians i.e. the Utes, while becoming increasingly murderous toward all others. But nothing in Evans' words - this is why I have emphasized the wording of the Proclamations he issued - extenuates in the slightest what Chivington did. In fact, Evans' Proclamations call for wiping out all hostile Indians ("killing and destroying them") even including women and children who come settle with the "friendly ones" near the forts. There was to be no refuge from the murderousness of the US army.
That was Sand Creek, and that was what Evans called for (his words are in the Camp Weld minutes). He could have tried to make a treaty with these courageous leaders, to have reached out to General Curtis. He did nothing of the kind. He sicced Chivington on them. His later defense of what he did immediately after being removed does the same thing. So it is only the racism of the editors of Che Christian Advocates and all the East Coast officials, content with genocide, just not with this extremity\exception of murdering the most friendly Indians, those most willing to come in and make peace with repeated efforts, which makes what he said seem acceptable to some of them (i.e. urging the killing of all, innocents as well as combatants, and allowing no Cheyennes and Arapahoes to become "friendly," no matter what the evidence).
President Johnson, however, demanded his resignation...
For what most distinguished Sand Creek is the murderousness toward "friendly" Indians, those who had done everything in their power to turn the genocidal killing of the US government aside. It was vile and, secondarily, it was stupid, as Soule said. For in killing those who wanted to make a settlement and went to such lengths, it determined everyone else, as a matter of justice and of necessity, to fight the conquerors to the death. It led to 25 years more war (till 1890, the massacre at Wounded Knee).
The infamy of this essentially genocidal process is clear once one realized that the racism toward human beings here is wrong (it is abhorrent...).
The Occupiers were the aggressors. DU history professor Raymond Giddens Carey near to World War II, having defended in a racist way the viciousness of the U.S. government's/Evans' and Chivington's conquest - "all higher civilizations do it," he said - suddenly referred to this "Christian civilization" seeking Lebensraum...He saw, for once, the analogy with the Nazis...
The indigenous people defended their territories, their homes, against aggression. That is self-defense. They were as much in the right as the Americans against British occupation, the Poles or the Soviets against the Nazis, the Americans, after Pearl Harbor, against the Japanese...
Thank you very much for the suggestion of Bryant's book [I will get it) - and the words sound like Evans's version (as cited in Saxton). It is a good inference that Evans knew about it as an account of the Minnesota war, hangings, genocide though he could just have known of this because it weighed so much on Lincoln (that he reduced the number executed from at Mankato from 303 to 38 - still the largest military execution in American history). But how widely was Bryant's book circulated by the summer of 1864 - could be a problem and was Evans enough of a reader...? Note: Lincoln thought the pardon might cost him the 1864 election and did it anyway.
One possible difference in interpretation between us. It seems to me that Evans endorsed Sand Creek in his apology. That is, he said the settlers were so threatened by indians that they had to take action, i.e. the action was just. Thank you for the wonderful, sad quotes from the Northwestern Christian Advocate and the Central Christian Advocate (even the name speaks to the genocidal bias of "Christians" at the time). But you seem to indicate that in some writings he actually qualified this - that they committed "excesses" in a long conflict where they were basically "in the right." I would very much like to see that quote in its setting.
But as to the core apology for Chivington (and himself) - never saying Sand Creek was wrong, wanting to exterminate the indigenous people and drive them out - that was where Evans was at.
All the best,
I suspect that you are right that we are much closer that might at first appear. I'm anxious to probe the matter of racism as context for understanding the process that unfolded in Colorado. Peter Silver, in his OUR SAVAGE NEIGHBORS: HOW INDIAN WAR TRANSFORMED EARLY AMERICA, argues that the modern definitions of racism were not generally embraced until the 19th century and the appearance of "scientific racism." Before, the systematic justifications of racism that was introduced, he suggests that the Seven Years War created a contagion of fear, which "entrenched itself in political argument and became a vital means of forming public coalitions." This led to a rhetoric of victimization and horror that created what Silver calls "the anti-Indian sublime." The Indian as savage and threat was the product of this new literature which grew over time to become a staple in explanations of conflict between Europeans and indigenous peoples. I am not doing justice to Silver, but by extension, by the time of the Colorado gold rush, "the anti-Indian sublime" was entrenched, and settlers expected the worst from natives. The conflict that followed, whatever its true causes, confirmed the self-fulfilling prophecy of "savage" war.
Of course, this is far too simplistic. I don't present it as a full or even satisfying explanation, but I do believe it helps us to understand how people who thought of themselves as decent, honest--and honorable--citizens could perpetrate such monstrous acts. The rationale almost amounted to an expectation. Consider this passage from Bryant's book, published, remember, in 1863:
“On the one hand stood the white race in the command of God, armed with his law; on the other, the savage, resisting the execution of that law. The result could not be evaded by any human device. God’s law will ever triumph, even through the imperfect instrumentality of human agency [sic]. In the case before us, the Indian races were in wrongful possession of a continent required by the superior right of the white race."
What we have here is a Christian rationale for conquest. Bryant quotes Thomas J. Galbraith, the Sioux agent in Minnesota: “The radical, moving cause of this outbreak is, I am satisfied, the ingrained and fixed hostility of the savage barbarian to reform, change, and civilization." But notice this addition: “Christianity itself, the true basis of civilization, has, in most instances, waded to success through seas of blood.” What we have here is the expression of a belief in the necessity of slaughter upon occasion in support of "the great law of right." This view does not require extermination, but it accepts it as an option in replenishing and subduing the earth. The "right" of conquest is "founded in the wisdom of God" and the "ever operative law of progress." It was, Galbraith contended, "the encroachments of Christianity, and its handmaiden civilization, upon the habits and customs of the Sioux Indians" that caused the Minnesota uprising.
Now, imagine yourself as John Evans, perplexed by his determination to "settle" the land question, consolidate the tribes onto small reservations, and to deal with the fears and ambitions of settlers, reading this stuff. I would argue that he did not have to read Bryant to know these arguments. Bryant did not originate them; he expressed them. Evans would, however, apply the ideas found in Bryant to his own situation. It is plain that by 1863, Evans thought a war inevitable and read the calls for extermination in the territory's papers. I believe that the evidence is strong that after his failed 1863 conference, he accepted war as inevitable, even desirable.
In Evans' reply to the JCCW, he wrote, "I do not propose to discuss the merits or demerits of the Sand Creek battle, but simply to meet the attempt to connect my name with it and to throw discredit on my testimony." He blamed political enemies who "conspired to connect my named with the Sand Creek battle, ALTHOUGH THEY KNEW THAT I WAS IN NO WAY CONNECTED WITH IT." The CHICAGO TRIBUNE accepted this explanation and wrote "that he was in no manner responsible for what happened at Sand Creek." He defended Colorado's soldiers and his course in dealing with the Cheyennes and Arapahos, but over and over again avoided an explicit endorsement of Sand Creek. See his letter to the ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS during the election of 1865, the TRIBUNE article, and the Bancroft interviews. There is no "I stand by Sand Creek," statement by him.
I don't know how I changed fonts in the middle of this response; it was not intentional. At any rate, I look forward to pursuing this further.
Thanks again. This is very helpful. That Evans had settled on killing indigenous people seems clear from his statements at Camp Weld; your surmise that he had given up on resettling them as of the summer of 1863 (when he came out with "presents" and they shunned him) and opted for genocidal violence is probably right.
Evans's statement that he "had nothing to do with Sand Creek" is a very strong attempt at getting away from Sand Creek, and of course false, given his Proclamations to do exactly that and his refusal to settle with indigenous people determined to and under the impression they had made peace.
I will also look at "Our Savage Neighbors"; Silver's idea is completely right - there was no pseudoscientific racism, i.e. surrounding IQ testing or more aptly, only phrenology at the time, but the bigotry was intense - though I am not sure of the "anti-Indian sublime" as a name for this extreme racism (his setting in the Revolution - linked to the struggles of blacks I write about in Black Patriots and Loyalists is very interesting). Also, even with it, the racism had to be stoked up in Denver by displaying the bodies of the Hungates [David Halaas just told us about the mysteries of how the bodies were buried and dug up twice and Jeff Campbell's theory). But very intense racism i.e. toward Jews or Roma or Poles in Germany or African-Americans here - the phenomenon of lynching as a "crowd pleasing festival" in the South - is quite widespread. The connection between bigotry and torture and murder is always there. It makes decency something to be fought for - as Soule and Cramer did, not something that is just given (Thoreau's sentiments on being the majority of one against such atrocities in Civil Disobedience has always struck me as apt).
All the best,
One of the important things to remember is that by the time of the Civil War, a vast literature existed that reinforced both the notion of Indian savagery and the expectation of violence, complete with the imagery of Indian brutality, torture, and mutilation. There was also a view of the "noble savage" by then, but the belief in the exceptional cruelty of Indian war was much more deeply fixed in the popular mind. At the first sign of conflict or rumors of conflict, this imagery fed the fears and the prejudices. Even the most innocent movements terrified settlers because of the embedded prejudices. And, of course, there were those who used and promoted the fear for their own purposes.