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DSST: Byers Middle School to change name because of connections to Sand Creek Massacre

Denver charter school is expected to become DSST: Cedar for the 2023-24 school year
DSST Byers school name change.jpg
Posted at 11:53 AM, Jul 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-20 13:53:41-04

DENVER — A school in Denver announced Thursday plans to change its name because of its connection to the Sand Creek Massacre.

DSST: Byers Middle School was named for William Byers, one of Denver's earliest boosters, according to a historical article on the Denver Public Library's website. He was also the founder of the Rocky Mountain News newspaper.

"[Byers'] promotion of the area’s agricultural and economic benefits, some of which were questionable or downright lies, helped enrich the city, state, and Byers himself," the Denver Public Library said.

However, Byers also used the newspaper to encourage violence against Native Americans and supported the Sand Creek Massacre, according to historians.

In August of 1864, the Rocky Mountain News published an appeal by Governor Evans for civilian militias to fight “the merciless savages.” And the newspaper published its own editorial that could've been written, or at least approved by Byers, encouraging citizens to join the war, the Denver Public Library said.

Then in October of 1864, the Rocky Mountain News published a message from Colonel Chivington that read, “the boys of the Third may soon be off on the war path [sic]. Let the red skins [sic] look out now,” the Denver Public Library found.

On November 29, 1864, Colonel Chivington and his soldiers opened fire on lodges of innocent and unaware Arapaho and Cheyenne civilians, according to the National Park Service.

Troops killed around 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe members, then were cited committing further atrocities on the dead.

The Sand Creek Massacre maintains its status as one of the most emotionally charged and controversial events in American history.

Denver's DSST Byers is changing its name

William Byers' wife Elizabeth later donated the land for what is now DSST: Byers Middle School near Washington Park.

"We... recognize the generational harm that the ideals of the time created for the Arapaho and Cheyenne peoples. I firmly believe that the decision to discontinue the daily promotion of the Byers name is the right one for our school community," the director of DSST: Byers Middle School Elin Curry said.

The school's new name will change to D.S.S.T Cedar in tribute to the strength and versatility of the Cedar tree wood, a news release from the DSST Board said Thursday.

The cedar tree played a crucial role in various aspects of indigenous life from cradleboards for carrying babies to its resilience in the face of drought and harsh winds.

"I look forward to continuing to understand the history of the Denver area and tell the story of our campus in a way that is inclusive of all perspectives," Curry said.

The school is expected to officially become DSST: Cedar for the 2023-24 school year.

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