Every spring, The University of North Dakota’s Indian Association (UNDIA) puts on a week-long series of Native-themed cultural events called ‘Time Out Week.’ Though the events are meant to be celebratory, many native students expressed dismay this week when the UND Student Body President Nick Creamer vetoed an allocated $2,000 to the ‘Buffalo Feed’ meal that Native students give to pow wow participants and guests for the event ending pow wow celebration.
After the veto, Native students attacked Twitter with the hashtag #FundtheFeed and questioned the professional behavior of Creamer who has tweeted his support of a pro-drinking t-shirt emblazoned with the term #RollTribe and the statement “Take Me Drunk… I’m Home.”
In addition, the Gamma Phi Beta sorority – the sorority that held a cowboy and Indian themed party in 2008, just this week posted a banner which stated, “You Can Take Away Our Logo But You Can’t Take Away Our Pride.”
According to UND Senior Danielle Miller, (xodanix3 on Twitter) treasurer of the UNDIA majoring in Indian Studies and communications, the pow wow will still be taking place, but she is disheartened that funding to the meal was vetoed by Creamer.
“This situation was very upsetting considering UNDIA had the funds allocated to them and then revoked,” says Miller. “ The execution of the way this took place was very sneaky and unprofessional. They waited until the week before the pow wow to come to this decision, despite the fact that they had months to do so. Because they waited so long UNDIA did not have an opportunity to appeal those decisions.”
“They will be unable to host the Buffalo event without the funds; they will have to pay for the cost out of pocket,” she said. “It’s not just about having food at our event, but it’s a way to show appreciation of each other. To have a feast or give others food in many native cultures is an act of honor and respect.”
Robert ‘BJ’ Rainbow, a master’s student in the educational leadership program who is due to graduate, says the “past two days have been a wild ride.”
Rainbow says that for a while since the ‘Fighting Sioux’ logo had been officially retired, he thought the student body had been moving forward, but in light of the week’s events, he isn’t so certain.
“I thought we as a UND community were getting past this topic. But this really started a war among all of us students again here in Grand Forks on the UND campus. When will this ever end? Will they ever see the problem?”
“As a Native student, I also feel that I carry the responsibility of speaking up and educating,” said Rainbow. “If I don’t, who will?”
Though student body President Creamer has not returned several requests to comment, he did tweet a response to students regarding the veto which stated, “We funded the Wacipi Powwow: $20,000, 2.5x more than any other student org can receive. Read veto message here: pic.twitter.com/wUNLq”
In a letter to the Student Senate, Creamer wrote that the $20,000 was agreed upon last April as an amount sufficient to help the pow wow, the UNDIA was given ample time to seek alternative sources as was requested by the previous Senate and the amount of money received “is a far greater amount than what would be available to any other student organization…” Creamer wrote.
Rainbow says Creamers conclusion is an unfair comparison.
“UNDIA is also the largest minority within UND. There are no other student organizations that put on an event as large as ‘Time Out’ week and Wacipi [pow wow]. The educational content of our event is huge compared to a concert or any other event. The enrichment of knowledge has always been there for the students for over 40 years now,” said Rainbow.
“This president has not nor does he plan on coming to any of our events/pow wow. One of the main arguments is the economic impact of our event is around $4 million.”
Regardless of all situations and the attempts to remedy them, including cultural awareness training for the Gamma Phi Beta sorority and an apology from the UND President and the sorority national office for the banner, both Rainbow and Miller say there are more tensions on campus since the retirement of the Fighting Sioux Mascot.
Miller says things are currently strained. “There is a definite tension that’s gone on ever since the mascot has been retired. I felt like things were starting to improve before these incidents. I have to be honest, after hearing about stories of violence and harassment inflicted on Native students in the past for speaking out against the mascot, and other acts of discrimination, I no longer feel safe on this campus.”
Vincent Schilling is an Akwesasne Mohawk of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, Executive VP of Schilling Media, Inc. and host of the award-winning Native Trailblazers Radio Program – You can follow him on twitter at @VinceSchilling