By Leslie Reed
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln senior had to miss the Nov. 7 Nebraska-Oklahoma football game to attend his aunt’s wedding.
What he saw after he turned on the TV made him question whether he ever truly had been a part of Husker Nation.
There were several young men rooting for the Huskers, cavorting in front of the cameras, wearing face paint and American Indian headdresses. They carried a sign that said “We Want Our Land Back.”
LaRose is a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who grew up on the Winnebago Indian reservation in northeast Nebraska. He is one of approximately 130 Native American students who attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“I grew up in Nebraska; I am proud of this state,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “I was proud to come to UNL, the flagship institution, where I was repeatedly told as a freshman that this is a place that fosters multicultural sensitivity. And in my senior year, I see this happening on TV, and everyone else can see it. It’s disheartening, and it’s disappointing.”
Even more disturbing than the fans’ behavior, LaRose said, has been UNL’s slowness to disavow the incident and take steps to prevent it from happening again.
In fact, fans wore Native American costumes to the Kansas State game two weeks after the game with the Sooners.
The costumed fans, whose names have not been made public, broke no UNL rules with their attire.
Four of the offending fans offered a public apology for their actions during an open forum Wednesday that was part of a student government meeting.
All upperclassmen, they described themselves as die-hard Husker fans who dress up for every home game. They’ve worn kilts and togas before, they said.
They thought wearing Native American garb would be a good way to needle Oklahoma for its “Boomer Sooner” heritage, they said.
By Kim Buckley
This bill was one of two proposed bills the group debated last night. The University of Nebraska Inter-Tribal Exchange (UNITE) voiced concerns about UNL students dressing up in Native American headdress and war-paint at the Nov. 7 football game against the Oklahoma Sooners and again Nov. 21 at the game against Kansas. ASUN senators drafted the two bills in response.
The students met with UNITE after reading the apology to the senate to get a chance to “clear the air.” Three of the students—Richard, Drew and Chance—agreed to comment. Their intent was not to single out a group of people, they said. The choice to dress up was just an expression against the Sooners.
The fans' "protest" was historically accurate, since the Oklahoma Sooners did take Indian land during their land rush. If Indians in regular attire had held a sign saying "We Want Our Land Back," we'd be having a different conversation. Same if the students had held a sign saying "Indians Want Their Land Back" without dressing up in costumes.
As it is, you can see the mockery inherent in the stunt. The sign conveyed a legitimate Indian claim, but the costumes conveyed illegitimate stereotypes. "Look at us," the costumes seemed to say. "We're a spectacle. We bear the same relationship to Indians that clowns do to non-Indians."
Whether it's intended or not, that's mockery.
The outcome of this controversy seems a good one. People discussed the issue and took steps to prevent it from happening again.
But note that 11 people voted against Senate Bill 15 and four abstained. So 15 of 29 people, a majority, couldn't bring themselves to vote for the resolution.
And you gotta love the thoughtless students and their apology. The most they've done in the past is dress up in "kilts and togas." They've never singled out an oppressed minority before.
So they've never dressed as stereotypical blacks or Asians or Jews. They singled out Indians for their first (and only?) ethnic stunt. But they claim they didn't mean to "single out a group of people."
"Well, yes, we singled you out, but we didn't mean to do it. We didn't know there were any Indians left to get offended. Honest Injun!"
For more on the subject, see Tricking or Treating Indians and Indian Wannabes.
Below: Chief Illiniwek, a similar example of mockery.