Evans’ “Proclamation to the Friendly Indians”

John Evans

John Evans, 1860s

This article is part of a series by the National Park Service concerning the 150th Anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre.

As rising tensions and several murders contributed to war on the High Plains in the summer of 1864, Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans proclaimed that “the friendly Indians of the Plains” needed to go to outposts like Fort Lyon; there, they would receive “provisions, and [be shown]… a place of safety”.

Also serving as Colorado’s Superintendant of Indian Affairs, Evans issued his proclamation on June 27, arguing that it intended “to prevent friendly Indians from being killed through mistake… The war on hostile Indians will be continued until they are all effectually subdued.” The so-called 1864 Indian War would linger, but Evans intended to isolate the peaceful groups from the warrior bands.

Unfortunately, certain factors made the proclamation ineffective. First, because of the distance involved, news of the offer failed to reach many of the Plains Indians until the middle of July at the earliest, when warrior societies and the U.S. Army had already committed to war. Second, Evans lacked the military authority or funds to feed peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho that reported to Fort Lyon.

When chiefs like Black Kettle and White Antelope sought peace and complied with this directive in the fall, Colorado Volunteers of the U.S. Army attacked their unsuspecting village on Sand Creek in November. The subsequent massacre proved the ineffectiveness of the June proclamation and drastically affected Cheyenne and Arapaho societies.

To find out more about Territorial Governor Evan’s June Proclamation, go to www.nps.gov/sand or visit the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site outside of Eads, Colorado.

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Eric Sainio, Park Guide
Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
National Park Service
P.O. Box 249
Eads, CO 81036
(719) 729-3003 ext. 223

“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

-Wallace Stegner

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