Council: So long Chivington

By Trevor Hughes The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Chivington Drive will bear that name no more.

In a surprise move Tuesday night, city leaders decided to remove that name from a Longmont street to recognize the widely condemned role Civil War Col. John Chivington played in the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. Native Americans said having a street named for Chivington was both offensive and tantamount to endorsing his actions. About 100 people packed the city council chambers to show their support for changing the name. “How about Ted Bundy or Hitler Avenue?” asked Tony Belthem of the Four Winds Council, who drummed in the city hall lobby before the hearing. “Let Longmont be the first city in Colorado to hold Chivington and his militia responsible for war crimes. It’s not Chivington that I hate. It’s what Chivington did. Chivington’s men, I don’t hate. It’s what they did.” Chivington is both revered for his role during the Civil War — as the hero of Glorieta Pass who stopped a major Confederate advance from Texas through New Mexico — and reviled for his role in the Sand Creek Massacre. In the latter, Chivington led a 700-man volunteer column against approximately 500 encamped Arapaho and Cheyenne.

According to the National Park Service, which is trying to establish a memorial site at the site northeast of La Junta, 150 people, mainly women, children and the elderly, were killed in the attack on Nov. 29, 1864. About 50 soldiers also were killed.

The council voted 6-1 to change the name, with Councilman Marty Block opposed. Council members had been slated only to discuss wording for an explanatory plaque to be installed at the entrance to Chivington Drive. Block had brokered a compromise deal between the street’s residents, the American Indian community and the Longmont Citizens for Justice and Democracy, and said he thought that was a more appropriate solution. But the majority of council members said they were persuaded by the massive show of public support for changing the name.

“Having sat through this same discussion and failed to achieve efforts to make a change on Chivington in the mid 80s, then again in 91 and now, it’s time for healing,” said Councilman Tom McCoy. “I would move that the name Chivington Drive be removed and a different select name placed in there as soon as possible.”

Members of the audience broke into loud applause and cheers following the 9:30 p.m. vote. Glenn Spagnuolo, an organizer with LCJD, said the council’s decision was welcome but surprising. This was the third effort to change the name since the neighborhood was developed in 1977. “We were hoping but we weren’t expecting it,” said Spagnuolo between hugs with Belthem and other American Indians after the vote. “Right now I am so proud of my city council.”

Spagnuolo and LCJD clashed bitterly with city leaders this summer over a new Wal-Mart Supercenter store. Earlier in Tuesday’s hearing, Spagnuolo joined about 30 people in urging the council to either install a stark interpretive plaque explaining Chivington’s role in Sand Creek or remove the name altogether.

“So long as Chivington is recognized as a hero, this community agrees with the idea that indigenous people are second-class citizens,” Spagnuolo said. “It is important that we do not fear our history, but instead embrace it.” Chivington Drive resident Ginny Sue Hayden said she moved onto the street several years ago only because the house at 2347 Chivington Drive was for sale. Hayden said she supported changing the name because the issue was driving a wedge between her neighbors.

“The residents of Chivington can hardly talk to each other civilly about this matter anymore,” said Hayden during the hearing. “We’re holding the entire city hostage. I just wonder if it’s going to continue to be sensible … for sake of convenience for us not to have to change anything.” Council members said they felt changing the name was the best way to solve the issue and move on with other matters facing Longmont. They initially said changing the name would complicate mail delivery for residents of the street's 45 homes.

“The reason we didn’t take the easy way in the past and (initially) this time around was because we all felt that changing the name of the street would bring some pain and annoyance to the people who live on that street,” said Councilman Fred Wilson before the vote. “But as I listen to the discussion about monuments and artwork and all the rest … probably we’re causing a lot more with making this street a monument of itself.”

Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at