With two of my daughters, I finally made it to the new Renaissance Hotel in downtown Denver – and it was well worth the effort. The old Colorado National Bank has been handsomely brought into a 21st century role, and in the process its unique Allen True murals have been honored and preserved.

Barbara Sternberg at Renaissance

Like so many early pioneers in Denver’s cultural history, muralist Allen True had been mostly forgotten when Jim and Maggie Barrett bought his home and studio in Denver. They decided to acquaint themselves with True’s life and work. As a result of their extensive research, their travels to meet some of his descendants, and their discoveries about his murals in State Capitols and commercial buildings throughout the U. S., an impressive 3-location exhibit of True’s works was staged in Denver in October, 2009.The locations included galleries in: the Denver Public Library Western History Department, the Denver Art Museum and History Colorado. The Barretts also stimulated the making of a PBS documentary, “An American Artist”, about True’s life and work, and were involved in its production. The reputation of Allen Tupper True was resurrected – rescued from obscurity.

Publication of “Allen Tupper True: An American Artist” in 2009, simultaneously with these other events, contributed greatly to this renewed public recognition of True’s achievements. “This first definitive biography of the Colorado artist Allen Tupper True (1881-1955) was written by True’s eldest daughter, Jere True and her daughter, Victoria Tupper Kirby. It relies on letters, diaries, and contemporary news accounts as well as family history to describe his artistic evolution from illustrator to easel painter to muralist. The lavish illustrations include most of True’s murals (both extant and destroyed), a selection of his major easel paintings, as well as some of his sketches and cartoons and Indian-inspired designs.” (Visit allentuppertrueanamericanartist.com) Copies of the original hard cover book sell on Amazon for the astounding price of “from $2,904 up.” (The paperback sells for $18.03 and up.)

ceiling“The Lovely Old Girl Comes Alive!” was the reaction of Joan True McGibben, Allen True’s granddaughter, to the opening of the Renaissance Hotel. She said that “it was with utter joy that I walked into her lobby filled with people, gleaming marble and my grandfather Allen Tupper True’s murals alive again in vivid color and eliciting excitement and respect from the crowd.” (Visit allentuppertrueanamericanartist.com)

Anne Evans played a quiet but significant role in True’s career. She was his first patron, commissioning a painting from him to hang over the fireplace in her mountain home of the Evans Ranch. For this she apparently paid $500, a considerable sum in those days. She also significantly involved him in the ambitious project to salvage the Central City Opera House and develop an ongoing summer festival. True was appointed to oversee the restoration of the Opera House. To be able to devote the necessary time to this, he moved his family to live in Central City.

The Renaissance Hotel offers to the visitor a fascinating reprint of a 1923 booklet, Indian Memories, in which Allen True talks about his murals. “The Indian in mural decoration has usually been depicted as surrendering to the Whites, making treaties with the Whites or fighting the Whites. Seldom if ever has he been accorded the dignity of standing alone on his own intrinsic worth or beauty.” True goes on to describe an aspect of his thinking about the current status of the Indian – an aspect which was also predominant in Anne Evans’ attitude to the pueblo tribes of New Mexico, for whose values and ways of life she had so much appreciation. True says that, “The method of presentation (of the murals) is through a series of retrospective visions – the Indian dreaming of his vanished glory.” The attitude was not only that tribal values could not survive, but also, curiously, that the Indians were actually disappearing. Perhaps, given the huge toll that Western diseases were taking, the relentless wars, and their increasingly being exiled to inhospitable places, the expectation may have seemed reasonable.

In her paper about the Hopi tribe, Anne Evans wrote, “I would advise all of you most strongly to make a pilgrimage while you can yet get to this fountainhead, for it can’t last very long. The people are dying out, they are not very robust and our method of civilizing them is apparently quite disastrous even to their bodies.” (Theosophical Quarterly pages 309-315, April 1912)

Jim Barrett pointed out that True and Anne Evans had in common a passionate interest in the well-being and the accomplishments of American Indians. Allen True tried, through his work, to persuade America to adopt – as their own national symbology – the beautiful and original design motifs of American Indians rather than those of European origin. Anne Evans took a deep and personal interest in the work of promising young Indian artists in New Mexico, helping to set up artistic training that would encourage them to use their own tribal motifs in their modern work.

In the May 15, 2014 announcement of the opening of the new Hotel, Renaissance Hotels said “one of Denver’s most iconic structures, the historic Colorado National Bank Building, has reopened its doors as the new 230-room Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center.” There followed a useful brief account of the building’s history.

“Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Colorado National Bank Building was designed in 1915 by famed Denver architects, William and Arthur Fisher. Originally erected as a four-story building on the corner of 17th and Champa Streets, the area was then deemed the ‘Wall Street of the Rockies.’ The building’s neo-classical, Greek revival architecture is highlighted through its towering white exterior columns and walls, created with marble from the Colorado Yule Marble Company, he same marble used to build the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Large monogrammed doors open to the three-story atrium, constructed with marble flooring, ornate bronze accents and the most secure vaults in existence at the time – details that remain as part of the hotel’s design experience.”

Vaultroom_Renaissance_HotelThe Hotel offers a variety of experiences to the visitor. While I was a little ambivalent about the furnishings decor of the huge atrium, I greatly admired its provision of intimate spaces in which small groups can sit and visit in comfort. The decision to use the vaults, their huge doors expressing fine industrial craftsmanship. as private dining rooms, is creative. There is an engaging history wall, with a detailed explanation of True’s murals “as well as artifacts, mementos, architectural imagery and photos from the bank’s storied past.” A complimentary walking tour available by smartphone gives information about the building’s art work – both the historic murals and a new collection of contemporary work by emerging Colorado artists. It also talks about about the “hotel’s unique culinary offerings.” These include “cocktails and dishes available onsite that use local ingredients or spirits.” We settled for a satisfying breakfast, but are motivated to head back there soon for an interesting lunch or dinner.

All images courtesy of Francesca Starr

Comments (1)

There have been several new entries in the public debate about the role of Anne Evans’ father, Territorial Governor John Evans, in the Sand Creek Massacre 150 years ago, and about the degree of his responsibility for the subsequent removal of the Arapahos and Cheyennes from Colorado Territory.


  • Report of the John Evans Study Committee, University of Denver, was issued in November 2014.
  • Colorado’s Land Grab: On the 150th Anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, Colorado Admits the Eastern Half of the State was Build on the Coerced Cession of the Arapaho and Cheyenne Homelands. Headline of an article in the Denver Post (November 23, 2014) by Gregory Hobbs, a Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.
  • Several discussions on television about the Sand Creek Massacre and the degree of Territorial Governor John Evans’ responsibility for it.
  • Sand Creek: The Civil War’s Forgotten Tragedy – Article in The Smithsonian Magazine, December 2014


Those of you who have read my book about the life of Anne Evans may remember that a question about Anne and the Sand Creek Massacre was raised early (p. 7). In a discussion about the challenges of writing the story of someone who ordered all her personal papers destroyed after her death, I mention several “mysteries” that were difficult to resolve, because of the the lack of adequate documentation. One of these: “Was there any truth to the conjecture (advanced by several historians) that her concern for the well-being of the Indians of New Mexico arose out of guilt for the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred during Governor Evans’ term of office?”

Weighing all the indirect evidence available to me, I concluded that the answer to this question was “No.”

But I did include in the book an entire chapter (p. 66-80) on Sand Creek and After. This was as part of the life story of Anne’s father, John Evans, in the discussion of Anne’s family background. I was therefore very intrigued when both Northwestern University and the University of Denver decided in 1913 to form Study Committees. These were to search for answers to questions raised by students and others about both Universities’ consistent portrayals of Evans – a prominent founder and early benefactor of both institutions – as a heroic figure, making many contributions toward the the public good. Never a mention of the infamous Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred on his watch as Governor of Territorial Colorado, and which ended his tenure in that position.


1. Did Territorial Governor John Evans bear any responsibility for the Sand Creek Massacre? If so, what exact policies and actions of his as Governor contributed to that horrendous event?

2. Were any of the generous financial gifts that both universities received from John Evans derived from the long term results of the Massacre – the removal of the Plains Indians from Colorado Territory and the inheritance of those lands by American immigrants and settlers?

3. To the extent that the Universities’ Study Committees found Evans responsible, and that some of his financial success resulted from the Massacre and its aftermath, what measures should the institutions now take to atone for their 150-year silence and their profiting from the historical results of the Infamous Sand Creek Massacre?

DU-Report-CoverI have reported on the results of the Northwestern University Study Committee’s investigations in a recent Anne Evans News: http://tinyurl.com/northwesternjohnevansreport. In the next newsletter, I will summarize the evaluations of the University of Denver’s Committee with its more sweeping criticisms of Evans’ policies and actions and its recommendations.


Both the Denver Post article of November 25, 2014, (Colorado’s Land Grab) and the Smithsonian’s “Sand Creek: The Civil War’s Forgotten Tragedy,” raise the national issue of the uglier aspect of the Civil War.

We remember the Civil War as a war of liberation. But is also became a war of conquest, to destroy and dispossess Native Americans.” So asserts Tony Horwitz, author of the Smithsonian article.

COLORADO’S LAND GRAB: On the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre, Colorado admits the eastern half of the state was built on the coerced concession of the Arapaho and Cheyenne homelands.” (Article by Gregory Hobbs in the Denver Post.)

This direct linkage of the battles of the Civil War, fought with the noble intent to outlaw slavery, with the simultaneous battles against Native American tribes, aimed at conquest and the expropriation of their lands, was new and disturbing to me.

But it has the ring of truth. And it does raise the question: How far could the actions of any one man – e.g. John Evans, the Territorial Governor of Colorado – really be responsible for an overwhelming tide of history? A tide that was based on attitudes – towards land use and tenure, individuals and community, held by the surging masses of immigrants – that were totally incompatible with the beliefs about relationships between earth, nature, and tribal community, held by Native Americans.

The University of Denver’s Study Committee’s contributions to this important, and far from simple, discussion of the significance of the Sand Creek Massacre, will be the subject of the next Newsletter.

I spent the entire day last Sunday reading.

  • Reading this 113-page report on John Evans’ relationship to the Sand Creek Massacre, issued at the end of May, and also related news coverage of the document.
  • I also investigated the status of a similar enquiry being conducted by the University of Denver and learned that the DU Report report has not yet been issued.
  • Finally, since the Massacre was instigated by Colonel Chivington, a prominent Methodist Minister, and since Governor Evans himself was a devout Methodist, I reviewed the actions of the Methodist Church in relation to the massacre, and, more broadly, their attempts to have an honest confrontation with official Methodist attitudes towards Native American populations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Why a Report on This Subject So Many Years Later?

John Evans, Courtesy History Colorado

John Evans, Courtesy History Colorado

Anne Evans’ father, John Evans (1814-1897), was a major founder of Northwestern University in 1851, when he lived in Chicago. John Evans was a significant influence on, and donor to, the institution for the rest of his life. He was appointed by Abraham Lincoln as the Second Territorial Governor of Colorado in 1862. He was forced to resign from that position in 1865 after Congressional and military enquiries into the brutal – and totally unjustified – 1864 massacre of a peaceful group of members of Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes camped at Sand Creek. One Congressional Committee, dissatisfied with Evans’ indecisive answers to their questions (he was in Washington when the massacre occurred) recommended that Evans be removed as Governor. After the assassination of Lincoln, the new President Andrew Johnson requested Evans’ resignation. Evans complied on August 4, 1865.

The Sand Creek Massacre, 150 years later, is still an unhealed wound.


Northwestern University’s Always Glowing Account of Evans’ Life, Achievements, and Contributions

lincolnevansproc300x242In recent years, some students, faculty and other community members have raised questions about the University’s complete silence regarding the massacre that abruptly ended Evans career as Governor. Some questioned whether “the University has glorified someone who does not deserve such treatment. Conversely, others have wondered whether the critics are subjecting Evans to the sort of a historical character assassination that judges a person in the past by the standards of the present.” (1)

Appointment of Study Committee

In the winter of 2013, Northwestern University’s Provost, Dan Linzer, appointed a committee of nine scholars – five from the faculty of Northwestern and four from other universities – “to examine in detail Evans’s role in the massacre.” Provost Linzer also asked the committee to try to determine “whether any of Evans’s wealth or his financial support to Northwestern was attributable to his policies and practices regarding Native Americans in Colorado while he was in office.” (ibid p. 2). The Committee was to issue its report by June, 1914.

Overview of the Report

The Report is a scholarly – and readable – document. It consists of 91 pages of text, plus extensive Chapter notes, bibliographical lists, links to Key Documents and Websites, and Acknowledgements.

The six chapters of text are: The Introduction, Chapter 1, which describes in detail the incomprehensible Massacre, characterized by one contemporary General as “perhaps the foulest and least justifiable crime in the annals of America.” (ibid p. 9) The Chapter describes briefly John Evans’ major contributions to the University, why its site – the town of Evanston – is named after him, and poses the questions before the Study Committee: about why the Massacre is never mentioned in University accounts of Evans’ life, and what exactly was his role, and degree of responsibility, for the tragic event.

Chapter 2 summarizes Evans’ life and relationship to Northwestern. Chapter 3 is about the historical background to the Massacre, a concise but thorough presentation. Chapter 4 details the course of events, during Evans time as governor, that led up to the massacre. Chapter 5 describes the aftermath of the massacre – the public outrage, the enquiries, and the Governor’s resignation. Chapter 6 details the Committee’s conclusions.

This is a brief summary of the report’s contents. The next Newsletter (or two!) will be devoted to its content and, especially, to a discussion of its conclusions.

1. Report of the John Evans Study Committee, Northwestern University, May 2014, p. 2
2. Ibid, p. 10

A Little Good News!
With all the distressing, even alarming, world news today, it is a pleasure to report on two recent good news items in Colorado.

Fort-Lyon250x171So Far – So Good: Fort Lyon’s New Role

Headlined “Disputed Treatment Center Sends Alums Out Into The World”, a Denver Post article on August 20 celebrates the graduation of the first 11 formerly homeless people from the new residential treatment program at Fort Lyon.

As I reported in a previous Newsletter (March/April, 2014), “Fort Lyon was the jumping-off ground for Colonel Chivington’s brutal massacre at Sand Creek” and then had successive reincarnations as Veterans’ Hospital and Colorado State prison. In 2013, it embarked on a completely new mission, becoming a state-funded shelter, addiction treatment facility, and job-training center for the homeless.

After quite controversial legislation authorizing this program was passed, there was considerable speculation as to whether any of the homeless (especially from Denver, site of Colorado’s largest homeless population) would voluntarily get on a bus to go to a distant destination in one of the most rural areas of the state. Governor Hickenlooper was a major supporter of this new and positive role for Fort Lyon. The Denver Post, in a May 12,10 1913 editorial headlined OK, GOVERNOR HICKENLOOPER, FORT LYON IS YOURS NOW was frankly skeptical about the chances for the project. “If it fails, voters will know where to place the blame. And if it succeeds, we will be the first to credit the governor for his commitment to the idea.”

As of the end of November, 2013, 70 homeless people had taken up residence in the facility. They came from 15 counties, most from Denver, with 100 more on the waiting list. So this August 20, 2014 article is a welcome update on the lives of these new residents. Everyone is required to work, with a wide variety of tasks to choose from. Along with Bent County employees, the Post article reports, residents replaced the entire sewer system and are now working to restore a row of former officers’ quarters. One woman works in 41/2-acre garden she started.

Residents each get a personalized recovery plan. There is a walk-in clinic and they can attend on site Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous meetings. They can improve their job skills by taking courses at nearby Otero Junior college and Lamar Community College.

The article is a positive one, both about the program’s effects on the formerly homeless living there, and on the economic well-being of Bent County. But no effort on the Post’s part, that I have yet seen, to carry through on its promise that, if the project to rehabilitate many of the homeless from Front Range cities in this very rural – and historic – setting succeeds, “we will be the first to credit the governor for his commitment to the idea.” Perhaps it is too soon to declare the latest use of old Fort Lyon to be a success – but it certainly looks promising.

Denver - Union StationNew Incarnation of Union Station: Have You Seen it Yet?

A couple of weeks ago, I finally made it, with a good friend, to see the Union Station development. We traveled by the RTD train from Jefferson County’s “Taj Mahal” – my first experience of that fairly new transportation development. The whole experience was quite exhilarating.

The first pleasant surprise was to find the original Union Station happily fulfilling a dual role. The main waiting room area is still filling its original function. It is a public space, with comfortable furniture, a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, and interesting stores and places to eat in the spaces around the waiting area. All the upper floors now are rooms in the Crawford Hotel, named for Denver’s urban renewal pioneer, Dana Crawford.

We ate lunch at one of the cafes with outdoor tables and chairs, facing the large public open space in front of the Station entrance from downtown Denver. It has borrowed and enlarged Aspen’s idea of an installation of a rectangular series of fountains shooting up and falling randomly, inviting children to run through it – with a high possibility of getting soaking wet. This central feature is surrounded by pedestrian space. There were a few children daring the run, and strollers passing through the space. (I couldn’t help wondering just what will happen in the large fountain area in the winter months.)

We did not have enough time to explore the rest of the impressive Union Station redevelopment project, with its new buildings and pedestrian areas. I only got a rough idea of the location of the three transportation terminals on the site – for “real” trains, RTD trains, and RTD buses, so I intend to make another visit soon. But I saw enough to feel that this Union Station redevelopment project will become a new magnet for interesting activity – in a once-deteriorating segment of the central area of Denver. And I thought again, with gratitude, of former Governor John Evans who wouldn’t give up on his seemingly ridiculous vision of Denver becoming one of the great cities of the United States.

Comments (1)

Amid all its recent coverage of the rebirth of Denver’s Union Station, with its “$54 million addition of “a hotel, shops, restaurants and bars” (1), the Denver Post made a little excursion into our city’s early history. They reminded readers that, more than a century before the 1980′s, when the city “was choking on a brown cloud of pollution and struggling with a decaying downtown and a sputtering economy,”(2) a gleeful leader in a rival city had pronounced Denver “too dead to bury.”(3)

The year was 1865, and Denver’s leaders had lost the battle to have the transcontinental railroad routed over the mountains and through their city. The Union Pacific Railroad understandably took the easier course through Cheyenne, Wyoming. Denver’s economy, already adversely affected by the Civil War and the stagnation of gold mining, plunged into what could have been a death spiral. Population declined, business dwindled. The dire economic times forced the Colorado Seminary, forerunner of the University of Denver – which had opened with high hopes in 1864 – to close its doors.

Denver - Union StationThe city’s economic turnaround was largely due to the stubborn and persistent efforts of one man, John Evans. At the time, Evans was embroiled in his own serious troubles following the October,1864 Sand Creek Massacre, the issue over which he lost his position as Colorado’s Territorial Governor. Nevertheless, when “a representative of the Union Pacific came to Denver…in 1867 to suggest that the businessmen of Denver should form a railroad company and build a line to Cheyenne with help from the Union Pacific, there was an immediate response from men like David Moffat, John Evans and William Byers.”(4)

In my book, I describe the almost superhuman efforts of John Evans to assure the success of this venture, involving “an overwhelming series of financial organizations and reorganizations, contracts with construction companies, and congressional lobbying to secure land grants. At one point, with no prospects and construction at a complete standstill, Evans resigned as president of the board of directors and signed a contract to build the railroad and pay off its debts. At the beginning of 1870, Evans again became President of the Denver Pacific Railroad, and was on hand at the Denver Depot. when the tracks finally reached the city on June 23, 1870.“(5)

The first incarnation of the Denver Union Station opened in 1881 – described as an Italianate structure with two stories and an 180-foot tower. The center section burned in 1894, and the entire structure was razed in 1914 to make room for the new neoclassical station which opened in 1917.

1 Jaffe, Mark, “Denver’s renovated Union Station has been a 30-year barn-raising,” Denver Post, Business Section, pg 1 Sunday, July 13, 2014.
2 Ibid
3 Ibid
4 Sternberg, Barbara E. with Jennifer Boone and Evelyn Waldron. Anne Evans – A Pioneer in Colorado’s Cultural History: THE THINGS THAT LAST WHEN GOLD IS GONE. Evergreen: Buffalo Park Press with Center for Colorado and the West Auraria Library. 2011. pg 77.
5 Ibid. pp 77-78

As I enjoyed the celebrations of the holiday season, I remembered one aspect of Anne Evans’ personality, which I have not yet had an opportunity to “blog” about. This was her incredible zest for life. Spending any time as her guest was, by all accounts, a rare and enjoyable experience.

Anne in front of her cabin fireplace. Painting by Allen True, The Trappers (above), Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Anne in front of her cabin fireplace. Painting by Allen True, The Trappers (above), Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

    • After a few day’s stay at Anne Evans’ mountain home, one guest wrote on behalf of a small group, The hospitality of your friendly home quite overwhelmed us all…Dr. Steiner said ‘in some homes one sees only wealth and material plenty, but In Miss Evans’ home one sees love and a great spirit.‘ I(p. 345)


    • In the research about her life, I found several accounts of her idea of hosting children as guests at her home on the Evans Ranch and quoted my favorite: A young niece and nephew, aged 11 and 13, were sent to spend a summer on the ranch with their Great Aunt. They were interviewed. Wide-eyed and apprehensive, they were told that one rule and one rule only must be obeyed. They trembled. “You must have a good time! (p. 346)


  • Anne Evans enjoyed the creative effort of devising plays and pageantry, both as part of the elaborate summer life up on the Evans Ranch, and as a participant in social and artistic activities in Denver. One such occasion was vividly described by Miriam Washburn Adams, remembering the time she was an art student from Colorado Springs, taking classes in the Denver Atelier headed by architect Burnham Hoyt, a longtime friend of Anne Evans. (pp. 356-8)
Anne Evans cabin staircase, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Anne Evans cabin staircase, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Miss Anne told Burnie she had written a medieval play she wanted acted on the stairway in her Mt. Evans home. She wanted ten members of the Atelier to come up Friday and give the play Sunday evening. Burnie sent word to us to be at Willie Mead’s studio by 4:30 Friday afternoon. They had medieval costumes we could be squeezed into…I assure you as we drove through Denver, in the then popular open cars, we were gazed at–catcalls, boos, etc….Miss Anne all but expired when we tumbled into her house all dressed in these costumes! We looked wonderful that evening, in her out-of-this-world house with the enormous logs that made the inside as well as the outside…At breakfast, I will admit, we were a wild sight…

Burnie had us working all day Saturday…making all kinds of necessary crowns, horses, stars, out of cardboard; and believe you me, they had to be perfect–we were working for a perfectionist–but luckily one who could point the way to perfection. One development almost brought the project to a halt. After the most delicious lunch Saturday…it turned out a poisonous toadstool had been lurking in the lunch bowl. Sunday produced a sorry lot of actors. Burnie was the color of chalk. I was all right if I could sit down. By three in the afternoon most has recovered and they started rehearsing. At six, they gave the play.

Margaret Evans Davis (Anne Evans’ niece) read the words on the other side of the screen as she wove her tapestry. Most of us were holding positions and draped up the stairs–Burnie and another man having a big tilt or joust on wooden horses at the top of the stairs. It really must have been fantastically lovely.

Costumed horse for circus performance, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

Costumed horse for circus performance, Courtesy Margaret E. Hayden

The audience for this intense effort was small (seven in all including Anne Evans) as it was for many other efforts on the ranch over the years. The reward was apparently more in participating than in the applause.

This is the second of a three-part blog post concerning Anne Evans’ article about the Hopi Indians, their art and their Snake Dance, which was discovered after the publication of her biography.

To read the previous article, click here.

Portrait of Anne Evans DPL Western History Collection

Portrait of Anne Evans DPL Western History Collection

Anne Evans concluded her Fortnightly Club paper with a sensitive and well-informed description of the the Hopi Snake Dance. This was the subject of an earlier article, The Hopi Snake Dance, a Religious Ceremonial, the third of those that have surfaced since the biography’s publication. This article was published in the Theosophical Quarterly in April, 1912. In both articles, Evans gave a brief description of her own experience of watching parts of the Snake Dance, or, as she preferred to call it, “the dramaturgy of the Sun-serpent Myth.” It is not easy to find a satisfactory definition of dramaturgy that fits the sense in which she is using it. Perhaps the best one is “shaping a story into a form that may be acted.” She wrote both descriptive pieces in the present tense.

The Snake Dance, she says, “is an elaborate nine-day prayer for rain that the crops may ripen and our children have food–then, afterwards that we too may have to eat.” In the Hopi world, the snakes are wise Elder Brothers who, because they live underground, have “intimate relations with the spirits of springs and the germinating seeds.”

Only the dramatic events of the eighth and ninth days are performed publicly, but she observes that the entire ceremony had already, in 1912, been witnessed and written about by scientific observers, who had gained the trust of the Hopi and so were freely admitted to the kivas where much of the first parts of the ceremony take place. As a broad generalization, Evans says, the first seven days are devoted to preparation and consecration.

  • Altars, symbolizing rainclouds and lightning and the serpents of the four world quarters, are painted with colored sands: always yellow for the North, green or blue for West, red for South and white for East.
  • Pa-hos or prayer sticks, of which eagle feathers are an indispensable part, are prepared and consecrated, and deposited by bearers at surrounding shrines on the plains.
  • The bearers, on four successive days, make a complete circuit around the base of the mesa. They visit the farthest shrines on the first day. The circuit is contracted on each succeeding day, in the hope that the gods may “likewise so approach, the dry river-beds be swollen with water and the farmers hear the pattering of rain.”
  • Four days are also allocated to the capturing of the snakes. The hunt is ritually conducted, one day each to the North, East, South and West. “…afterward these formidable Elder Brothers must perforce undergo the priestly purification by water, smoke and breath before being duly laid upon the altar.”

This is the first in a series of three blog posts about Anne Evans’ article on the Hopi Snake Dance.

A recent controversy involving the Hopi Indians of Southwest Mexico reminded me that I had promised to write a blog post about the last of several articles, written by Anne Evans, that have come to light since the publication of her biography. The article, Hopi Snake Dance, was published in 1912.

Hopi and Eagles
The recent controversy was about whether the Hopi should be allowed to continue an age-old tradition. Each Hopi village raises a young eagle, feeding them with rabbits hunted by young boys, until the time of the Home Dance “when the Katsina spirits perform and the eagle absorbs their song-prayers.” When the ceremony is over, the eagles are taken to a quiet place and quickly suffocated. “Their spirits are sent home with the Katsinas until the following year, when both are petitioned to return with their blessing power. Their bodies are taken to the kivas, where feathers are carefully plucked and arranged by religious purpose.” The bodies are then buried with great reverence in a special cemetery, treating them exactly the same as human beings.

The Denver Post of May 26, 2013 carried a “pro and con” discussion of the issue. I believe Anne Evans would have deeply appreciated the viewpoint of David Whiteley, Curator of North American Ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and a long-time student of Hopi culture and history, who wrote the “pro” side of the debate, (from which the quotes above are taken) supporting the Hopi right to carry on their ancestral tradition.

Whiteley notes that the Hopi have lived on the Colorado Plateau for at least a thousand years and that their whole culture, and interaction with their “landscape of little water,” is essentially conservationist “The strongest surviving indigenous tradition in North America, Hopi religion focuses on seasonal and daily attention to preserving the world in balance.” The real threat to the survival of raptors, he writes, lies in residential and municipal development in the region, and in industrial development throughout the West “Self-righteous blame of Hopi eagle-gathering is myopic scapegoating, and neglects true threats to those species and possible means to avert them.”

Anne Evans and the Hopi

Anne Evans wrote two articles about what she learned from her many visits to what she called “Hopi Land.” She made no secret of her sheer delight in this experience.

I understand that many good Americans when they die, are going to Paris. I’m secretly hoping that when one American dies, she may alternate Paris with Hopi land – about half and half, with a slight preponderance in favor of the latter.

Hopi potter Nampayo

Nampeyo at work painting a small pot, ca. 1905. Photograph by Edward S. Curtis. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/

I wrote about one of these articles in my biography of Anne Evans (pages 305-311)1. It was prepared for a 1920 presentation to the Denver Fortnightly Club. Her subject was The Art Impulse of the Hopi Indians2. In it she said that her intention was not to deal with the artifacts of Hopi culture, but to try to understand the “art impulse and the conditions which produce it.” After reviewing the life and accomplishments of the Hopi potter Nampayo – interwoven with the experience of choosing one of her pots to purchase, and have decorated by her husband – Anne Evans concluded that the mainsprings of the Hopi Art Impulse were “Contemplation, Concentration, and Vision.”

Perhaps, she says, these are universal wellsprings of art, but it is difficult in our complex “modern, everyday world” with its “mesh of native and foreign influences to be disentangled” to achieve what she saw in Hopi culture.

… their joy lies in their arts; in the patient production of pottery and textiles and baskets – in the songs which they sing at work and play and ceremonial – and in their dances and dramaturgies – all springing from a spontaneous desire of creation, so universal that no dividing line exists between audience and actor; between artist and creator.

1 Sternberg, Barbara E. with Jennifer Boone and Evelyn Waldron. Anne Evans – A Pioneer in Colorado’s Cultural History: THE THINGS THAT LAST WHEN GOLD IS GONE. Evergreen: Buffalo Park Press with Center for Colorado and the West Auraria Library. 2011.

2 Anne Evans, “The Art Impulse of the Hopi Indians,” Denver Public Library, Western History Department, Denver Fortnightly Society Collection. 1920. 7.

Anne Evans wrote her article about the life and contributions of George Fox just over a hundred years ago.* She described him as a man sufficiently like ourselves – “speaking our own tongue, to a people of like traditions, within our own historical consciousness” – that reading his journal enables us “to actually feel the solid reality of the man…It is as though a portrait had been painted for us by his great Dutch contemporary, so Rembrandt-like is its compelling domination of the varying background, so golden the light, so rich and sombre the shadow.

George Fox: http://www.georgefox.edu/

The Essence of Fox’s Message
Fox left his home village as a young man and describes himself as “a man of sorrows…Traveling up and down as a stranger in the earth…” He had a powerful personal revelation which transformed his values and established his mission for the rest of his life. “…all things were new, and all creation gave unto me another smell than before…I saw all the world could do me no good; if I had a king’s diet, palace and attendance. all would have been as nothing, for nothing gave me comfort but the Lord by his power.

His message to one and all was simple and profound, “There is that of God within you. Hark!” If he could only express this truth with sufficient power, his work would be finished. His audience would be able to “shift for themselves and he was free to pass on to the work of arousing other men.” Fox made no distinction between different social classes, “regarding each and all as equal in their high heritage.” He paid no attention to the normal niceties of social manners or conventions.

In fact, writes Evans, “the seemingly trivial eccentricities of his manner and speech were what first riveted attention and insured him a hearing.” He could have preached rationally about the equality of men, and met with little resistance.  But because he refused to take off his hat, he “roused such a storm of rage and abuse among the smug class-worshippers, that all his powers of argument and eloquence were given full scope in lulling it.” Fox was frequently imprisoned for refusing to take the oath of allegiance, and this meant that magistrates were forced to listen his arguments for refusing.

Fighting for Justice
One aspect of pre-reformation England that most infuriated Fox was the “devious and procrastinating methods” of the courts of justice which made justice for ordinary people “almost non-existent.” The conditions in the prisons, in which Fox and thousands of his Quaker Friends found themselves so frequently, were absolutely deplorable. It is no wonder, writes Anne Evans, “that the Quakers have then and now felt prison reform as one of their sacred trusts.”

Incredible Endurance
Evans marvels at Fox’s powers of endurance. He carries on with his mission, in all seasons, frequently without shelter or food. He is severely beaten, often bleeding, he endures violence “not merely with stoical calm, but with grim joy in his opportunities.” She attributes the poise and equilibrium which he maintained “without deviation” to “an entire freedom from ambition, a high resolve to make use of all spiritual gains for the common good…

There were a few times when the constant persecution of himself and his followers became overwhelming. One such time was in the year 1670 when he suffered a “remarkable psychic crisis.” Seriously ill, he took refuge in the home of a faithful Friend. Few thought he would survive. Under successively more repressive laws, simply to be a Quaker was grounds for imprisonment. “It was a cruel, bloody time, yet in due course it pleased the Lord to allay the heat of this violent persecution….As persecutions ceased…I began to recover beyond all expectations.”

Organizational Achievements
Fox lived for more than twenty years after this episode, spending most of his time in London. These years “were largely concerned with organization, certain disruptions during his long imprisonments proving that the Society was too loosely knit to insure future usefulness.” He was also constantly involved in the founding of schools, for he felt it important that the members of his Society be taught “whatever things were civil and useful in creation.”

Until his death in 1691, Fox oversaw phenomenal growth in the Society of Friends. In England alone there were fifty thousand followers, and flourishing branches in Holland and in America, where William Penn had succeeded in instituting his “holy commonwealth.”

George Fox’s Legacy  
Anne Evans writes that Fox “undoubtedly believed that his Society…would become universal, each member a vital organic part, acting freely for the good of the whole…Why should it not embrace the world?” But she says that he greatly underestimated the power of his own personality. When de died without having arranged for effective successors, “he left his people without a leader who could march forward gathering recruits by the mere force of his presence. The remarkable growth inevitably slackened…

Nevertheless, Fox left a challenging legacy. The religion of the Friends is both an inward religion and a call to action. Fox was against war, and refused to fight. He spoke out against slavery and for the admission of women to the ministry. He wanted both boys and girls to study “everything practical and useful under creation.” He believed that all human beings have “that of God within them,” a potentially powerful inner voice to guide them. Because of this conviction, Fox believed that all – whether they were king or beggar, friend or enemy, English or (American) Indian or African – deserved equal respect.

Anne Evans concludes that it was a hundred years before an advocate for spiritual awakening and social justice as powerful as George Fox was heard in Britain. The “new prophet” was John Wesley. Anne Evans’ account of Wesley’s life and contributions was the subject of previous blogs.

* George Fox by Anne Evans. Article in Theosophical Quarterly Vol. 8, No. 3, pages 203-209, January, 2011.

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Church Fire Spares Ronnebeck Sculpture
At 3:02 a.m. on the morning of Monday, May 13, 2013, the Denver Fire Department was called to a fire at the Episcopalian Church of the Ascension at 6th and Gilpin. The fire, which had started among some bushes outside the church, had spread to the inside.

The Ascension by Arnold Ronnebeck, 1931.

The Ascension by Arnold Ronnebeck, 1931.

According to the Denver Post, the building sustained heavy smoke damage and one of the stained glass windows was shattered. But the “massive wood carving over the altar was untouched. Beloved by church members, it was created by Arnold Ronnebeck, a German-American artist…

About Arnold Ronnebeck
Arnold Ronnebeck was born in Prussia in 1885 to a well-educated family. He studied art in Berlin and Munich and then moved to Paris, deciding to focus on sculpture. He studied with Maillot and Bourdelle and attended Gertrude Stein’s salons where he met Mabel Dodge, Pablo Picasso and American painters Charles DeMuth and Marsden Hartley. After serving in the German army in World War 1, he came to New York in 1922 where he was welcomed into Albert Stieglitz’s circle of avant garde American artists. Ronnebeck was a skilled lithographer and prolific writer about artistic subjects, as well as a fine sculptor.

In 1925, Ronnebeck made a visit to Mabel Dodge Luhan in Taos, New Mexico, at her home, an artists’ gathering place. There he met Philadelphia painter, Louise Emerson, whom he married the following year in New York. The couple were making a trip west on their honeymoon, and stopped in Denver.

Anne Evans and Arnold Ronnebeck
By 1926 what had started out in 1893 as the Denver Artists’ Association had matured into the Denver Art Museum. Some of Ronnebeck’s sculpture had been exhibited in its galleries and he was invited to give a pubic lecture on his own sculpture, and on modern sculpture in general. The lecture was well-received and Ronnebeck was invited by the Museum’s Director to serve as its Art Advisor. The Ronnebecks moved to Denver, and remained here for the rest of their lives. Since Anne Evans had been on the Board of Trustees of the art group continuously since 1896, and was deeply involved in all its activities, it is certain that she was involved in Ronnebeck’s appointment, and welcomed the new additions to the artistic life of Denver. Of her many interactions with the multi- talented Arnold Ronnebeck, I shall here highlight three:

  • Not long after Ronnebeck was named Art advisor to the Art Museum, the Director, George William Eggers, resigned. With no change in his title, Ronnebeck was placed in charge of the Museum. He brought a prestigious show by his French mentor, Aristide Maillol, to Denver and persuaded the Trustees to purchase a cast of a life-size Maillol bronze nude. In 1929, the Board appointed Samuel Heavenrich, former curator of Harvard’s Fogg Museum, as executive secretary to take over museum operations. Unfortunately, the two men were soon at loggerheads over what were the functions of an art museum and what kind of art the Denver Art Museum should be collecting. When their disagreements spilled out into the press, their services were terminated. The Board turned to long-serving trustee Anne Evans to take over as Interim Director until a qualified successor was found.
Bronze bust of Anne Evans by Arnold Ronnebeck, 1932. Denver Art Museum.

Bronze bust of Anne Evans by Arnold Ronnebeck, 1932. Denver Art Museum.

  • This episode could have resulted in a cooling of relations between Ronnebeck and Evans, but obviously it did not. Ronnebeck was soon deeply involved in Anne Evans’ Central City project. The renovation of the old Opera House and initiation of the summer festival there was the project in which she, and her equally capable friend Ida Kruse MacFarlane, invested the last years of their lives. Ronnebeck was a talented actor and played a substantial role in the 1932 Festival debut play, Camille. Ronnebeck was also the sculptor of a fine bronze bust of Anne Evans, which was presented by friends to the Denver Art Museum in 1933 in recognition of her dedication to the advancement of art in Denver.
  • But then came the event that did deeply divide Arnold Ronnebeck and Anne Evans. This was over the design of a memorial to Mayor Robert Speer to be placed on the Civic Center. It was 1933. Vaso Chucovich, a Denver business man and friend of Mayor Speer, left $100,000 in his will to pay for the memorial. The design had to be approved by the Denver Art Commission, of which Anne Evans was a long-time member. I will not here recount the many unsuccessful attempts made to select a sculptor, but in the end the Trustees of the Chucovich Estate selected a design by Arnold Ronnebeck. Anne Evans declared it a sculptured atrocity and said, in so many words, that over her dead body would it be placed on the Civic Center. You will see no Speer memorial sculpture on the Civic Center. In the end, Mayor Stapleton persuaded the Trustees that it would be more appropriate to spend the money on a greatly needed Children’s Wing at Denver General Hospital.
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