Mita kuya oyasin, Laurentians,
Greetings all my friends, Laurentians,
I ask your permission to enter this discussion with some trepidation for two reasons: first, because I believe the Hill News is a space for students to exchange and debate ideas, not faculty or staff; and, second, because I believe that in important moments, silence communicates more (and more respectfully) than speech. So, I make a request on your generosity of spirit, to proceed . . .
Along with Zach, actually, I celebrate this “saga” and pray it continues. That our community is heatedly debating the Tri-Delta women’s choice to sponsor a “Cowboys & Indians” theme party means that we are a vibrant, engaged community. And that matters to me, immensely.
While I don’t celebrate, in fact I lament Delta Delta Delta’s choice of a theme for the party, I do know that it was not done with malicious intent. Several of these women are students of mine, they objected to the party, and tried to guide their sisters away from a mistake of incredible cultural insensitivity. So, I met with all the women of Tri-Delta, immediately after I found out the party had happened, to explain why it caused (and continues to cause) such hurt among Native people on this campus. Quite frankly, they got it; and they were not insincere in their recognition of the impact of their actions. I am in no way excusing their actions; such a theme party is patently offensive, but we still inhabit a culture where moms will tell their kids to stop running around “like a bunch of wild Indians,” where doing the “tomahawk chop” is a sign of team support, where naming a sports team the “Redskins” —in the capital of our very nation—does not cause a national uproar. Again, this does not excuse the sisters of Tri-Delta, but it explains their actions.
More than ever, I truly celebrate our Native students on this campus, particularly Okiokwinon (Ms. Chelsea Francis), for her strength of spirit, for her courage, for the power of her ancestors that speak through her voice to call out injustice where she sees it. Because of our Native students, the next seven generations are safe; because of our Native students, beginning with Mr. Ernest Benedict ’32, St. Lawrence University has had to come face to face with its own institutional racisms; because of our Native students, everyone else here must carefully consider what it means to be a “real” American; because of our Native students, “Cowboys and Indians” theme parties will cease to exist. Niaweh, Okiokwinon, pilch’ka, altsin sella ho ush’te, hi ye. Sa narai.
Dr. Randall T. G. Hill, Lumbee Band of the Cheraw Nation