March 28, 2012

University of Denver's Cowboys and Indians party

DU Native Student Alliance offended by Greek groups' Cowboys and Indians party

By Michael RobertsAn unusual event will take place today on the University of Denver campus--one prompted by another unusual event. At 4 p.m., students and administrators will gather near a tepee on Driscoll Green as representatives of two Greek Life organizations publicly apologize for a Cowboys and Indians theme party DU's Native Student Alliance dubs "piercingly offensive."

The bash, which took place on February 25, was sponsored by the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and Delta Delta Delta sorority. Attendees were encouraged to outfit themselves as either cowboys or Indians. Those who made the latter choice donned what an Alliance release describes as "phony headdresses, face paint, loincloths and all manner of stereotypical viciousness."

Party photos were subsequently posted to Facebook, and while neither the Lambda Chi Alpha nor Tri-Delta pages feature any of them at this writing, members of the Alliance who spotted them on February 28 saved a couple. Here's one example:
​Simon Moya-Smith, the DU graduate student, adviser to the Alliance and Oglala Lakota member who wrote the aforementioned release, says the party was offensive "because it dehumanizes and objectifies American Indians. People think our regalia are costumes to play around in, but they are not costumes. They are very spiritual and, if you want to use the western term, holy garb that would be reserved for elders of title.

"It would be as if Catholics went to a sorority or frat party and saw people dressed as the Pope or nuns and priests and they were swilling booze," he adds. Moreover, the dress-up games "perpetuate the idea that Indians are people of the past. But we are very much alive. We survived westward expansion, we survived the Founding Fathers, we survived government campaigns to get rid of our homelands. We're still here, and although we are 1 percent of the population, that doesn't give people the right to offend us and expect us not to say something."
Students to Apologize for Cowboys and Indians Party

By Simon Moya-Smith“This proves to me that our society and our fellow students still view us as nonexistent,” said Eagle, a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. “[Our peers] depicted us as mascots or a Halloween costume.”

Eagle said she immediately contacted Carl Johnson, director of campus activities at DU. Johnson stated that he was unaware of the event and referred to the party as “offensive” and “unacceptable.”

“We’ll have a swift and severe response to those groups,” he said.

Although Johnson did not release the details concerning how his office will respond to the offense, he did agree to Eagle’s request that both Greek organizations publicly apologize to the members of the Native Student Alliance.
Comment:  It never ceases to amaze me how blindly ignorant people can be.

For similar parties featuring faux Natives, see Duke's "Pilgrims and Indians" Party and Robotic's "Pilgrims & Indians Theme Party."

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