April 25, 2014

Sorority performs Pocahontas dance in costumes

UNCC Apologizes for Sigma Kappa Redface Act, but Sorority Remains Mum

By Vincent SchillingOn Friday April 11th, members of the Sigma Kappa Sorority at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte performed a “Disney Dancing with the Princesses,” for an event called "Air Band Dance," part of the campus' Greek Week activities. The presentation included a Pocahontas dance in which sorority members wore in Indian costumes and were painted with "tribal" markings.

Photographs of the event hit social media and drew criticism from the school’s Native students as well as at a National level. In response to the event, Arthur Jackson, the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs issued a statement via the UNCC Public Relations website that read, in part:Regrettably, as part of the Pocahontas dance, the dancers wore Native clothing and displayed tribal-like markings on their faces and arms. The symbolic representations proved offensive to Native Americans in North Carolina and nationally, some of whom have contacted the University or the Sigma Kappa sorority.

We apologize. Although we have every reason to believe that the sorority intended no offense, we consider this a teachable moment for them and for our entire campus community to deepen our sensitivity on issues of race and culture, and to ensure that we maintain a welcoming campus environment for all people.
Being Lakota, Becoming Greek

By Megan Red Shirt-ShawWere there girls on my own campus who dressed up as Native Americans for Halloween? Yes. Was it an incredible feeling when another sister came to me asking about conversations surrounding having a “Cowboys and Indians” themed party a year after I had graduated? How it was stopped in its tracks because of their understanding of everything I had taught them? Absolutely. Should it take a Native girl joining the sorority chapter for these things to be acknowledged and identified? Absolutely not.

On behalf of other Native American girls who stepped out of their comfort zone and to those who someday will too in order to join the Greek system, I implore and encourage the Sigma Kappa chapter and Nationals to apologize to the UNCC Native American Student Organization for promoting “Redface” and war-paint. Pocahontas has never been a reflection of who I am as a Native woman and it is not a reflection of contemporary Indigenous people today. As young Natives, we have a right to stand our ground and protect what makes us proud to be who we are--which was something I was always comfortable doing within my chapter of Sigma Kappa. I cannot imagine being a soon to be Native freshman at UNCC and seeing those women promoting cultural appropriation--it makes me very sad to see this coming from girls who, if we had been at Penn or UNCC together, might have, been my “sisters.” That is not and never could be the sisterhood I came to know.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Thanksgiving Pub Crawls in Indian Costumes and Pocahotties Show Depth of Microaggressions.

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