Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Graduation Controversy

So, as is usually the case at Iliff, there is a controversy. This time it is concerning Graduation. You, this year it is planned at Trinity United Methodist. Well, apparently back in 1896 they had a funeral at Trinity, and this funeral was for Rev. Col. John M. Chivington. Now, Col. Chivington was definitely not a nice guy. He was the commander of the Sand Creek Massacre. But, he was also a great hero of early Methodism in Colorado, having been the District superintendent of the Denver area. Unfortunately, American Protestant history goes hand and hand with cruelty and violence.

So, back to Iliff, many students don't want to have graduation at Trinity because of this particular bit of history: the fact that Col. Chivington was honored with great pomp at his funeral at Trinity in 1896.

But I don't quite understand it. If it's not okay to have graduation at Trinity, then why is it okay to go to school at Iliff, where Col. Chivington played a major role in the school's founding? Wouldn't it be safe to assume that he was memorialized in a Chapel service at Iliff in 1896? But we still go to chapel? It seems to me that every step I take is on land stolen from Native Americans, every drink I swallow is of water stolen from Native Americans -- every square inch of this land is drenched in he blood of innocents. How does singling out Trinity, and sacrificing them as the scapegoat on the altar of white shame, help this situation? It doesn't make our history go away if we just decide to assign the blame to an old building.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you could likely tell from what I said at the meeting, my own feelings are like yours. But at the same time, if relevant persons-- that is, Iliff persons or their invitees-- feel peculiarly affronted by *this* venue, I see that as worth respecting. (My own preferred solution is upfront and explicit handling, but I also respect Tiredness!)

Mary Ann

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it kind of pointless to protest something from the 19th century when there are real issues Iliff students could spend their time annoying the heck out of people with? What happened to the good old days of whining about WalMart and Taco Bell while we dropped our kids off at soccer practice in our gas-guzzling SUV's? I guess if people didn't complain about the choices made back in the 1890's they might have to take stances on things like invading other countries under false pretences. Burn some bras and get over it!

10:20 PM  
Blogger david said...

It's just occurred to me that Iliff might choose for a mission statement the words of Eminem's song Without Me:

Now this looks like a job for me
So everybody, just follow me,
Cause we need a little controversy,
Cause it feels so empty without me.

10:45 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

That does seem mighty silly, but far be it from me to deny someone else the right to protest. I guess that I might say, though, that if is the worst thing they can come up with to protest, they need to get out more.

David - we're thinking of you and the cabinet meetings. You'll be a great addition to the conference, wherever you end up!

11:41 PM  
Blogger david said...

Yes, if particular relevant persons do feel afronted, that is likely worth respecting. So far, I have heard any of those voices. I've heard only those who think they probably should feel afronted because its good to have righteous anger and this seems like as good a place as any to channel it.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be great to hear from someone who actually REALLY feels this way. I would love to hear their argument since it is easy for me to assume they are just a small minded individual who needs to see the world in black and white.
I would love to know why it is wrong that they held a service for this man even assuming he wasn't a saint. Do child molesters and murderers not deserve God's grace too?
The United Methodist Church formally apologized for its actions and those of Chivington in 1996. Is it really fair to lay blame on a church because it missed an opportunity to be transformative and prophetic 120 years ago? This seems to be more embarassing to Iiff than anything. No wonder people make comments about the school.
Chivington was a bad guy. A good article can be found at:

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David: Yeah, there's a lot to that. I'm reminded of someone last year who felt that doing a silent worship in Friends style would be culturally explotative, which I found fairly wiggy, given my experience with Friends and given the nearly-complete voluntariness of being or not being a Friend....

Mary Ann

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iliff students go to chapel?!

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this current news? I cannot find another, independent version of this story.

Apparantly the same situation occurred in 1992.

Mike Barker

10:40 AM  
Blogger david said...

Yes, you're right. This did happen in 1992. And yes, it is happening again.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When do we reach the point that there is a "tyranny of the offended." If I'm offended by something, does that mean everyone else has to bow and scrape to my demands. Good grief, talk about a power play.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Mike Barker said...


PBS version:


National Park Service version:


Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee version:


1940 biography of Chivington version:


Wild West magazine reports a different version:


Chivington's version:


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