In response to the “Siouxper Drunk” T-shirts worn by University of North Dakota students last Saturday as part of a Springfest celebration UND Native students have organized a #WalkforChange at the university to be held Friday at 11 a.m. to voice opposition to a hostile UND environment faced by Native students.
In addition to the #WalkForChange, Native UND students that are facilitating the event released several public statements demanding change from UND administrators as well as an outline for fostering cultural awareness at the university.
“The Fighting Sioux logo is supposed to be retired, but it is everywhere,” said Margaret Emmy Scott, a Political Science and American Indian Studies major at UND. “Whether you go to the registrar to pay your bills or to change your classes, people representing the administration are wearing the logo. Professors wear it, faculty, staff and more. We need this to be banned in the school atmosphere. That is the root of the trouble.”
In the release sent to ICTMN by Scott, the sentiment of the students is clear—they are fighting against what they consider to be a hostile environment for too long.
“The distress and hostile learning environment American Indian (AI) students endure is a form of psychological violence, predicated and perpetuated on notions of AI students being overly sensitive. This mentality presents a slippery slope as stereotypes lead to the dehumanization of a people and ultimately, permit acts of violence against those populations who are portrayed as the lesser.
“The continuous and overt forms of disrespect have negatively-impacted UND and its American Indian students. The ‘Sioux-per drunk’ T-shirts were specifically designed to target American Indian students and in itself is an act of discrimination. The UND students that wore these t-shirts have and continue to use social media, Facebook and Twitter to reinforce the notion of premeditated actions and adamant denial of wrongdoing.”
The Native students also say that the university’s response to repeated incidents has been non-existent.
“The UND administration remains complicit to these racially insensitive incidents on campus, failing to provide solutions, preventative policies, or take a substantive stance via public communication or otherwise to ensure that these incidents do not occur again. Thus, implicitly showing disinterest in recognizing the harm inflicted upon American Indian students.”
Because the students wore the offensive shirts in an off-campus environment, critics on social media and online have come to the defense of the students wearing the shirts saying they are free to express themselves under first amendment rights.
In the release issued by Scott, she notes UND students are still bound to UND policy.
“Under the Preamble: Expectations of Students in the UND Code of Student Life, it states: All students are expected to maintain a high standard of conduct, both on and off campus. Therefore, even off-campus actions by UND students are still accountable to administrative action.”
In an open letter highlighting “We Demand Change” sent to the University on May 13, 2014 from the Native students, including Scott, they write that the recent and recurring events from UND students utilizing the retired mascot exemplifies a tense racial climate both on and off campus.
The students state that a lack of support, lack of respect and lack of enforcement of policies reinforce the need for the school support.
In the letter the students are demanding the following:
1. Admit use of the retired mascot/logo is a problem and why;
2. Enact a Zero Tolerance Policy of use of the retired mascot/logo;
3. Hold the students and affiliates wearing the “Siouxper Drunk” shirts accountable for violating university policy;
4. Enact American Indian sensitivity training/workshop at all UND orientations;
5. Select a new mascot and name by Fall 2014.
“It is imperative that these demands are met and acted upon for meeting the needs of current American Indian students, faculty/staff, alumni and will greatly impact future American Indian students, faculty/staff, alumni.”
“The university has never, ever come out publicly and said that the fighting Sioux logo is wrong,” Scott said. “They used the NCAA as a scapegoat. We are asking the university to denounce this logo publicly.
“I am happy that this is getting exposure, this stuff has been going on for 40 years. People are finally recognizing these incidents have been continually going on, because the university has not said anything, they have been silently promoting this atmosphere.”
Efforts to reach out to UND officials have gone unanswered.
For more information about the walk, which will start at UND’s AISS building at 315 Princeton Street, contact Emmy Scott at 712-259-2398 or follow the hashtag on Twitter #WalkforChange.