Seeing the Round Corners

HEADS UP, the new day for Seeing the Round Corners “GOING LIVE” is Tuesday each week.

September 21, 2021


Last week, Seeing the Round Corners described a dark time in the history of Colorado (1864) when John Evans was the second Territorial Governor of Colorado.
A little refresher is appropriate. In 2014, the University of Denver empaneled a committee made up of a volunteer group of faculty, outside historians, descendant community representatives, and students and representatives the DU Native American community, to look into the role of the University of Denver’s founder in the Sand Creek Massacre of November 29, 1864. (The report was chronicled in Seeing the Round Corners, January through May 25, 2015, on this website.)
First, the proclamations issued by Evans in 1864, and then the Executive Order, B 2022 002, issued by Governor Polis on August 17, 2021.
The June 27, 1864 and August 11, 1864 Proclamations are verbatim from “War of the Rebellion” - United States War Dept.

Colorado Superintendency Indian Affairs
Denver June 27, 1864.

Agents, interpreters and traders will inform the friendly Indians of the plains that some members of their tribes have gone to war with the while people. They steal stock and run it off, hoping to escape detection and punishment. In some instances they have attacked and killed soldiers and murdered peaceable citizens. For this the Great Father is angry, and will certainly hunt them out and punish them, but he does not want to injure those who remain friendly to the whites. He desires to protect and take care of them. For this purpose, I direct that all friendly Indians keep away from those who are at war, and go to places of safety. Friendly Arapahoes and Cheyennes belonging on the Arkansas River will go to Major Colley, U. S. Indian agent at Fort Lyon, who will give them provisions, and show them a place of safety. Friendly Kiowas and Comanches will go to Fort Larned, where they will be cared for in the same way. Friendly Sioux will go to their agent at Fort Laramie for directions. Friendly Araphoes and Cheyennes of the Upper Platte will go to Camp Collins on the Cache la Poudre, where they will be assigned a place of safety and provisions will be given them.

The object of this is to prevent friendly Indians from being killed through mistake. None but those who intend to be friendly with the whites must come to these places. The families of those who have gone to war with the whites must be kept away from among the friendly Indians. The war on hostile Indians will be continued until they are are effectually subdued.

Governor of Colorado and Superintendent of Indian Affair.
(Source:  “War of the Rebellion” - United States War Dept.

AUGUST 11, 1864


Having sent special messengers to the Indians of the plains, directing the Indians to friendly rendezvous at Fort Lyon, Fort Larned, Fort Laramie, and Camp Collins for safety and protection, warning them that all hostile Indians would be pursued and destroyed, and the last of said messengers having now returned, and the evidence being conclusive that most of the Indian tribes of the plains are at war and hostile to the whites, and having to the utmost of my ability endeavored to induce all of the Indians of the plains to come to said place of rendezvous, promising them subsistence and protection, which, with a few exceptions, they have refused to do:

Now, therefore, I, John Evans, governor of Colorado Territory, do issue this my proclamation, authorizing all citizens of Colorado, either individually, or in such parties as they may organize, to go in pursuit of all hostile Indians on the plains, scrupulously avoiding those who have responded to my said call to rendezvous at the points indicated; also, to kill and destroy, as enemies of the country, wherever they may be found, all such hostile Indians. And Further, as the only reward I am authorized to offer for such services, I hereby empower such citizens, or parties of citizens, to take captive, and hold to their own private use and benefit, all the property of said hostile Indians that they may capture, and to receive for all stolen property recovered from said Indians such reward as may be deemed proper and just therefor.

I further offer to all such parties as will organize under the militia law of the Territory for the purpose to furnish them arms and ammunition, and to present their account for pay as regular soldiers for themselves, their horses, their subsistence, and transportation, to Congress, under the assurance of the department commander that they will be paid.

The conflict is upon us, and all good citizens are called upon to do their duty for the defen[c]e of their homes and families.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused this great seal of the Territory of Colorado to be affixed this 11th day of August, A. D. 1864.


EXECUTIVE ORDER B 2021 002 Rescinding the 1864 Proclamations Issued by Territorial Governor John Evans

Pursuant to the authority vested in my by Article IV, Section 2 of the Colorado Constitution, I, Jared Polis, Governor of the State of Colorado, hereby issue this Executive Order rescinding Territorial Governor John Evans’ June 27, 1864 proclamation and August 11, 1864 proclamation.

I. Background and Purpose

The State of Colorado has been and continues to be home to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Southern Ute Indian, 45 other contemporary Tribes with historic and cultural ties to the State, and Indigenous peoples from more than 200 Tribal Nations.

John Evans was the second territorial governor of the Colorado Territory from 1862 until 1865 and also served as the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Several months before the Sand Creek Massacre, Evans issued two proclamations on June 27, 1864 and August 11, 1864 (the 1864 Proclamation(s)) that targeted and provoked violence against Indigenous peoples. The first 1864 Proclamation directed “friendly Indians” to gather at specific camps, and threatened Indians who did not comply. The second 1864 Proclamation ordered citizens to “kill and destroy . . . hostile Indians” and urged the citizens to “take  captive, and hold to their own private use and benefit, all property of said hostile Indians that they may capture, and receive all stolen property recovered from said Indians such reward as may be deemed proper and just therefor.”

Evans’ actions, including the 1864 Proclamations, led to the Sand Creek Massacre on November 29, 1864, during which approximately 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people, mostly women, children and elderly, were murdered. Three federal investigations were initiated in the wake of the massacre, two congressional and one military, all of which denounced the massacre in no uncertain terms. Territorial Governor Evans never took responsibility for his actions leading up to the Sand Creek Massacre or thereafter. He was forced to resign in 1865.

The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site was dedicated in 2007 to serve as a memorial those murdered at Sand Creek and to educate the public about this shameful chapter in our national and state history. In 2014, Governor Hickenlooper apologized to the descendants of the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre on the 150th anniversary of the horrific event.

Territorial Governor Evans had no legal basis to issue the 1864 Proclamations. They have been described as “a clearly articulated framework of encouragement from the top political official in the territory for widespread, undisciplined, and preemptive warfare against Native occupants of the region.”(1) The 1864 Proclamations were never lawful because they violated established treaty rights and federal Indian law. Further, when Colorado became a state, they never became law, as they were superseded by the Colorado Constitution, United States Constitution and Colorado criminal code. Yet, the 1864 Proclamations have never been officially rescinded. They therefore remain as a symbol of a gross abuse of executive power during that grave period of our State’s history.

For these reasons, I find it necessary to officially rescind the shameful 1864 Proclamations through this Executive Order and provide closure for the dark period of our territorial history.

II.  Directive

I rescind Territorial Governor Evans’ June 27 1864 proclamation and August 11 1864 proclamation.

GIVEN under my hand and
Executive Seal of the State of
Colorado this seventeenth day
of August, 2021.
(s/Governor Jared Polis)

(1) See Report of the John Evans Study Committee, University of Denver, November 2014.

FYI:  The correct spelling is Arapaho, not Arapahoe as in white man’s language.

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