Thanksgiving season is over but many elite institutions are rewriting the history of the Pilgrim era.

St. John’s College and Thomas Edison State College student Christopher McDonald takes a look at figure from another era’s history, and asks a pertinent question about applying the sensibilities of today to those of the past.

It has recently come to light that a political figure in Colorado state history may have been a part of the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred on November 19, 1864. At Sand Creek, between 70 and 163 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians were slaughtered by the Colorado and New Mexico state forces, led by the bloody-minded commander Col. John Chivington. Supposedly, the figure behind that commander was John Evans, territorial governor of Colorado under Abraham Lincoln.

John Evans (1814-1897) is an eminent figure, and not just for his role as the second Colorado Territorial Governor from 1862-1865: he also helped to found Northwestern University and Denver University. It was these two schools that launched separate investigations into his role in Sand Creek, and their report came out over last May. Now the Denver University John Evans Committee report has been released, sparking many questions for Denver University. ..

Any direct involvement in the Sand Creek Massacre would result in immense guilt to Evans personally. Eight months after the Massacre, President Andrew Johnson forced Evans’s resignation, and Evans was subject to a full congressional inquire. Evans was never again to hold political office, the Massacre hung over his head like a dark cloud.

The problem that makes this case more than mere historical quibbling is that the two reports come to completely different conclusions.

….Whether Evans is worthy of losing his legacy or not I will leave to the universities to decide. But what must be remembered is this: if we continue to offer knee-jerk reactions because of past sins against presently favored minorities, we will eventually throw out all of our history. At some point in the past, members of every group committed murder, rape, theft, or slavery against some other group. Should we really judge all of history like this? If so, then no one is admirable, good, virtuous or worthy of emulation.

It is a poor thing to judge a man solely by the worst thing he ever did. History should be treated with greater care than to be a mere tool in the hands of political interests.