Only Great-Great Grandson of Former Governor John Evans Dies 9 Months After Apologizing for Sand Creek Massacre

“Most of us didn’t grow up with any knowledge or recognition of Sand Creek Massacre.”

Tom Hayden, the only great-great grandson of Colorado Governor John Evans (in office 1862-1865) died at home on February 29, 2015 of unknown causes at the time of his death.

He was current County Commissioner (R) in Clear Creek County and had planned to run for a second term changing his political affiliation to Unaffiliated.

On May 22, 2015 he appeared on a panel titled: Learning and Healing: Continuing the Conversation at the University of Denver along with descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre to offer recognition and to apologize for the acts of his ancestor.  The Sand Creek Massacre in southeastern Colorado was the result of a US attack on a camp of hundreds in an unarmed Cheyenne and Arapaho community killing 230 mostly women and children and injuring 200 more on November 28, 1864.  Documents later revealed that US Colonel John Chivington ordered the attack and his soldiers later paraded the mutilated body parts of the murdered on the streets of Denver to large crowds of cheering spectators.  Governor John Evans’ involvement in the massacre later became public knowledge.

An 1865 treaty promised reparations to those attacked but was never paid by the US government.

“I heard some scary things today.  One was that if it weren’t for Sand Creek that John Evans would have been president of the United States.  That’s a scary thought.  That somebody that is so driven by political agenda, financial agenda, and an ego bigger than this room could have possibly been president of the United States.  If there’s any good that could possibly come out of Sand Creek, it’s that.”

Hayden said that when he first learned of the Sand Creek Massacre that he began reading everything he could find, but acknowledged that there did not exist much on the topic at the time,

“When we review the Native American history, it’s the truth.  And it’s simple and it’s straightforward.  And it’s mostly based on oral history.  You read the white man’s history, and it is full of holes, interpretation all over the place.  You can take it any way you want.  It’s like data, you can make data do anything you want.   You read the white man’s history of the Sand Creek massacre you can come away with 20 different things.  The fact is there was no way of getting out of this no matter how it bothered me.”

Hayden sat on the panel with his daughter Laurel Hayden and his sister Anne Hayden  along with Cheyenne and Arapaho descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre: Henry Little Bird Sr. and Gail Ridgely Two Eagles.

“[This knowledge] was something I didn’t think I could ever be at peace with  knowing my great-great-grandfather was so involved.  He set the stage.  He choreographed it.  He did everything he could but pull the trigger and he might as well have done that which is why I’m so grateful for the John Evans DU report.   It’s nasty and it hurts.”

“It’s time for the Cheyenne and Arapaho, for them to tell us what it is that we can do now 150 years later for them.  An apology is not enough without some action.”

Some in the Native American community have suggested that a renaming of Mount Evans and Evans Avenue in Denver would be a beginning point of the healing process.  Tom Hayden said that his family would approve of a renaming of the two areas of namesake to the former governor.

“I’ll give you my commitment that anything that I can do to further this discussion to further anything as I call the low hanging fruit.   It could be good because then everybody would know about Sand Creek .   There are thousands of people within half a mile of  here right now outside these doors that don’t know about Sand Creek.  If you’re going to rename a mountain or if you’re going to rename a concrete street, these are just material things.  But if it’s going to educate and bring awareness, and some good can come out of it, I’ll get behind that.  I’ll help.”

Hayden served on three Building Accountability Committees and the District Accountability Committee in Clear Creek Schools and logged beetle-kill timber which he turned into the building materials of local architecture.

A celebration of life is planned on March 12, 2015 at 1:30 at the former Hayden Forest Products, Upper Bear Creek Road west of Evergreen.

For directions go to: 


photos:  KGNU News

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