BARBWIRE BOB – 12-1-22

It was in the early 1970s that I had a visitor in the front office of my hometown newspaper The Craig Daily Press.  He was a tall dark-haired man wearing a western bolo tie with a black braid.

BY BOB SWEENEY

His name was Amos Hopkins Duke, an American Indian, who had just been released from the Canon City penitentiary and had come to live with his sister in Craig.

Amos had a plan for an Indian newspaper that he shared with me over coffee.   Middle-aged, he had spent some years in prison, I think related back to some violence that occurred in his youth.  He had spent his sentence in the prison library studying law, history and journalism.  Making a long story short, he and I developed a  lasting friendship and we started an Indian newspaper together call “Tribal News,” a national publication.  He did the writing and I did some editing and printed the monthly publication. While we didn’t make much money, it was a welcome publication to Indian tribes across the West.  I was honored by the Nez Perce Indians and named an “Honorary Chief” of the tribe in Montana, receiving  a beautiful framed  inscribed certificate. 

After several years Amos departed from Craig and took his publication to Chicago.  I lost touch with him and that is the end of my Indian tale.  However, then and now, I strongly believe that Indians got a raw deal from the United States government along with early day settlers rushing to find wealth, land, and gold.

Indians fought back, destroying railroads, ranches, attempting to save their lands.  Their vast herds of buffalo were slaughtered to feed the railroad crews and hides sold.  Eventually Indians were relocated to reservations where many still remain today.  In my opinion we cannot do enough for tribes and descendants.

That brings me to the recent name change underway to “Mount Blue Sky” for Mount Evans located in Clear Creek County.  Apparently the county commissions voted for the name change.  I don’t know how much public notice was given, but the commissioners voted for the name change.   The name change may have emanated from a study done by some Denver University students who disliked Territorial Governor David  Evans, who was in charge of the militia  in 1864, when the Sand Creek Massacre occurred, killing over 200 Indians, primarily elderly, women, and children in Southeastern Colorado.  Evans resigned his position following  outcries over the brutal event.

The name change advanced to The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board that voted unanimously for the name change.   It now goes to Governor Polis, and upon his approval, onward to a final decision by the U.S. Board on Geographical Names in Washington D.C.

It’s a nice name and apparently supported by the Southern Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indians.  A recent AP story quotes Fred Mosqueda, a member of the Southern Arapahoe tribe, and a Sand Creek descendant saying, “…it hit me like a bolt of lightning.  It was the perfect name. ”His quote continues, “I was asked once, “Why are you so mean to the name Evans?” he recalled.  “And I told them, ‘Give me one reason to be nice or to say something good.  Show me one thing that Evans has done that I as an Arapahoe can celebrate. And they could not.”

Let me shed some light on Governor Evans that was called to my attention by a newspaper subscriber recently.  He writes, “Governor Evans was the second territorial governor appointed by president Abraham Lincoln. Governor Evans donated his personal property to establish the Denver Tramway Company with the building still standing on 14th St.:  He continues “…we had better cancel Evans Street.”

Doing a little historical research, Gov. Evans founded The University of Denver, the divinity school, and also Northwestern University in Chicago.  He was honored by the Colorado Legislature in 1894 by having Mt. Evans named in his honor.  That’s 20 years after the dastardly deed at Sand Creek.  I don’t know that this answers Fred Mosqueda’s question, but for thousands of the University graduates he must have assisted some Indian students.  If not, why not, would be my question.

While the name change is an honor for our namesake Indians, it would seem that scholarships and reservation housing might be more meaningful for the original owners of America’s lands.

The University of Denver is an awesome organization to be the founding father.  Apparently Evans had been forgiven by some for his trespasses by 1894.

Let’s give blame where deserved, and credit for good deeds earned.

We should not rewrite history but learn from past mistakes.