Many Americans now know that it is insensitive to celebrate the Pilgrims, and the Conquistadores, and the other European invaders, who came to the U.S. and wrought so much havoc amongst the Native Americans, here in the U.S. and in Latin America. Over 75 million Native Americans died as a result of the Euro invasion.
In November, a fraternity at UCI thought it was a great idea to hold a “Pilgrims and Indians” party. As you might imagine, many others disagreed with that notion.
Many Santa Ana residents attend UCI, and our co-blogger, Sean Mill, graduated from that school, ergo my interest in this issue.
Here is M.E.Ch.A. de UC Irvine’s response to this scandal (it should be noted here that Assemblyman Jose Solorio was a member of this organization, when he was a student at UCI):
M.E.Ch.A. de UC Irvine condemns parties that bastardize the cultures of underrepresented students on our campus, such as the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity’s “Pilgrims and Indian” party, which occurred on November 23, 2010. While we recognize the fraternity’s right to free speech, it is not acceptable to do so at the expense of the culture and history of marginalized students. These parties promote cultural insensitivity and lack an understanding of the struggles and oppression connected to holidays such as Thanksgiving. While Thanksgiving was created to appease the American population at the end of the Civil War and it is also representation of the genocide of indigenous people in the United States. No student should be exposed to this kind of representation of their identity and culture, as it fosters a hostile environment on a supposedly safe campus.
M.E.Ch.A de UCI demands a response from Student Affairs and will not accept a “slap on the wrist.” The students responsible for these parties need to be held accountable and should attend a cultural sensitivity training, such as a Reaffirming Ethnic Awareness and Community Harmony (R.E.A.C.H.) workshop in order to challenge their positions of privilege and educate them on the cultures they mock.
M.E.Ch.A stands in solidarity with the American Indian Student Association (AISA) and the Native community in demanding a change in the UCI discrimination policy for these types of events, an increase of Native faculty and an increase in Native American courses. These demands should not be unreasonable nor impossible to achieve on a campus that is supposedly dedicated to the diversity and well being of its students. These demands will not only improve campus climate but also spread awareness to student of color issues and increase the retention of those students.
This is a important matter that cannot be taken lightly or overlooked. We hope you take this situation seriously and take steps to change policy in regards to these parties.
M.E.Ch.A de UC Irvine
And here is the response from the American Indian Student Association of UCI:
The American Indian Student Association at UCI is asking for your support and solidarity with us in regards to an event that occurred on November 23, 2010. In light of Thanksgiving, the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity at UCI decided to throw a “Pilgrims and Indians” party.
As soon as AISA was made aware of this event, it was reported it to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and an official complaint was filed through the school. While the right steps were taken to ensure that our voices were heard; they were seemingly NOT heard. Although the school administration, faculty, and the fraternity involved were notified about the grievance filed and the situation; the party still went on. Advertisement for the event were still distributed throughout the UCI community through the attached fliers, Ring Road tabling and throughout the internet via a Facebook event. To make matters worse, university shuttles served as transportation for students JUST FOR THIS EVENT!
AISA members have went out of their way to voice their opinion on the issue. Dedicated their time educating and explaining why this event was exceedingly disrespectful to the Native community. Yet AISA members were subjected to seeing students of all stature prancing around adorned in rainbow colored headdresses, skimpy “loin clothes” and warpaint. Making a mockery of our culture and a direct attack on our communities experiences for the sake of entertainment.
As university students and as Native community members, it is not acceptable for us to have to endure these repeated cases of hostility towards us as people of color and Indigenous peoples especially in an educational institution like UC Irvine that advocates its dedication to diversity. This events and others that make a mockery of peoples experiences and identity are not to be tolerated. They create a hostile campus climate for people of color that are not safe and welcoming. That is why we are taking a stand and making sure that our voices are heard at the University of California, Irvine. We will not back down, and though we only have a .01% representation on the UCI campus; our voices are loud. Numerous other cultural and campus organizations stand in solidarity with us. This is not an isolated incident to Natives or other cultural groups, and we demand that this outright racism and disregard for who we are as Indigenous peoples and disrespect of our culture stops immediately.