Running Amock

Last night while lying in bed waiting to get sleepy, I decided to check out our local news via the internet. Within a few minutes, I stumbled upon something that made me realize why I really shouldn’t ever watch or listen to the news.

According to one of our local news stations, there is a movement afoot to require the University of Denver to get rid of the nickname they have had since being founded in 1864. What is the nickname? You’re thinking it’s going to be the D.U. Wops or the D.U. Krauts. Maybe the D.U. Froggies?

Nope. Their nickname is the University of Denver Pioneers. Apparently it’s culturally questionable to honor pioneers because of their place in history, when pioneer families were taking over land long held by Indian tribes. Just like we are not supposed to celebrate the 4th of July, since some of our founding fathers were slaveowners.

One of the biggest complaints that proponents of changing the nickname have is that the University of Denver was founded in 1864 by Colorado Governor John Evans. Gov. Evans was appointed by President Lincoln to be governor of the Colorado territory and he served from 1862 to 1865. Lincoln and Evans were buds from back in Illinois days. Anyhoo, at some point while he was governor, Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians began camping along the banks of Sand Creek. Fearing they were preparing for attack since the Colorado territory was low on menfolk given that they were fighting the Civil War, the governor authorized the shooting on sight of any of these Indians. His order was approved in advance by President Lincoln.

The order resulted in the killing of over 50 unarmed men and over 100 women and children. It was bad, my friends. There is no question that it is bad to shoot innocent men, women, and children, no matter what race or nationality they are.

So perhaps if they were called the University of Denver Governor John Evanses, a nickname change might be in order. But seriously? Pioneers is culturally offensive? Does that mean all of those folks who proudly drive around with Colorado Pioneer license plates need to have them removed?

I tell you with all honesty, I am very aware that cultural indiscretions exist. I have no problem with kids now sitting kriss kross applesauce rather than Indian sitting. I am much relieved that kids now recite Eeeny meenie miney moe; catch a tiger by the toe instead of what we used to say (though I will admit that when I said it, I had no idea what it meant).

I read recently that the Little House on the Prairie books were being banned by some libraries because Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about being afraid of Indians. It was the truth. The pioneers were afraid of Indians. I’m pretty sure the Indians weren’t too crazy about the white men and women who were taking over the land.

But must we all be held responsible for what transpired 200 years ago? I don’t want to be considered racist if I choose to fly a flag modeled after the original flag sewn by Betsy Ross. She and Mr. Ross might have owned slaves. I have no idea. But I don’t own slaves and I think the idea of human beings being considered property is simply barbaric. But I’m proud of how hard our ancestors fought to free our country from Great Britain.

By the way, Gov. Evans also played a role in founding Northwestern University in Chicago. It remains to be seen if Northwestern’s poor old Wildcat mascot will survive scrutiny.

4 thoughts on “Running Amock

  1. When I heard the woman responding to the ‘offensive’ Pioneer mascot name say “Pioneers were murderers” I really went ballistic. Hopefully she is not a student at DU, how could someone be so stupid?. Actually I’m offended, my ancestors were pioneers and they were not murderers. John has a distant cousin who came to Denver in 1864, he owned a clothing store on Larimer Street, he didn’t take anyone’s land, he didn’t murder anyone, he was a pioneer. This is a complex, historical conundrum, but open and transparent discussion with facts other than being offended would be helpful to reach a balanced and fair resolution.

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