It has long been time to eradicate the erroneous myth of thestereotypical Indian.
On March 4, 2004, an article appeared in “TheEasterner” about retro jerseys and a caricature of theone-time mascot of EWU, The Savage. The reactions, and latentemotions, that surfaced when confronted by this (supposedly longforgotten issue of our community) ranged from strong to mild toindifferent.
The article set off several events that, through press,telephone calls, and personal contacts, initiated a meeting betweenEWU President Stephen Jordan, Bill Ponder (Vice-President ofStudent Affairs), students, faculty, and others community citizensrepresenting the Native peoples. We convened at 2:00 p.m. on April8, 2004 at the longhouse. This meeting was an opportunity to bringus closer together and to become wiser in order to be betterprepared for other such events that inevitably will occur, eventhough they should not.
In today’s world, concerns are open or narrow toindividual focus. Political correctness, diversity awareness, andsensitivity are buzzwords of the day. Some things should be clearto all of us, we are human and experience life here on Mother Earthas many other humans. Traditionally, the Indian has been stronglyopposed to having teams or others have Indians as”mascots”, no matter how revered or honored by theowners. The team owners are possessors – we have all beenborn sovereign. No one needs to ask to have sovereignty given back;it is our birthright.
Unfortunately, the issues brought to life in the news article,and in the opinion written after it, are examples of the apathythat we face as Native people.
Fellow students, we stand at a crucial threshold, right now weare creating patterns and ways of being that will often carrythrough the rest of our lives. Sometimes, singular events occur inour lives that bear significant repercussions. Their effects arediverse. The formulation of who you are sometimes depends on howyou deal with these events. The method of initiating contact andsearch for solutions in this matter was newspaper articles, opinioneditorials, telephone calls, and personal contact. No one seemed toknow just how to go about performing any sort of protocol orprocedure leading to real action. EWU has a so-called”President’s Diversity Committee” initiated byformer President Drummond and ratified by the Board of Trusteesunder President Jordan in December of 2001. Where are they?
This incident may serve as an eye-opener for this committeebecause the ones that were hurt the most by the events did not havea clue about how to let our concerns and feelings be known to thoseresponsible for the action (the instigators of the retro jersey)and the inaction (the diversity team and campus administration).There was no structure or standard operating procedure within theUniversity structure to address a grievance of this nature, nordelineated proper channels to deal with these matters whenever theyarise. It behooves our institution to learn how to help people toget along. As more students come to EWU for higher education,social enlightenment and to learn the tools to live in a diverseworld, a great responsibility lies with this institution to take alead in this arena.
At the meeting between the President and the Native AmericanStudent Association, several issues were discussed. Thosesurrounding the retro jersey, the status of the Native AmericanStudies Program as it compares to the other ethnic minorityprograms, and the matter of the bricks at the Phase that stillpreserve the caricature of The Savage. Regarding the bricks at thePhase, President Jordan explained that it would cost $380,000 tohave them replaced. Pain and anguish are sacrificed for the sake ofbudget constraint. This explanation carries no persuasion. Ibelieve that if it were caricatures of any other race, there wouldbe no excuses given; the bricks would have long been gone. In theend there is some hope. There is now an open line of communicationto President Jordan and his staff and we are all working towardgreater diversity within the community of our fellow humans.
Native American Indian Awareness week takes place on April12-18, 2004. We extend an invitation to come to learn and enjoythrough participation. There will be a Pow-Wow held at Reese Courton Friday the 16 (from 6 pm to midnight) and Saturday the 17 ofApril (from Noon to Midnight). Salmon dinner, hot dogs, hamburgersand fry bread will be available. Everyone is welcome.