University student occupations
to stop cultural disrespect, 2000
2 arrested at Kent Creek. Activists mobilize, July 12,
At approximately 8:00 am this morning, Wednesday, July 12, Kent Creek
activists Jesse Crowe and Christina Ditzler were arrested and charged
with assault after allegedly smearing mud on police officers. The Winnebago
County officers made the arrests after Jesse and Christina held their
ground to prevent the destruction and razing of the wetlands, hardwood
trees, and Indian burial mounds located at Kent Creek, as well as the
creek itself. The two activists were held briefly today -- before bonding
out of jail to continue the blockade at Kent Creek and to prepare for
tomorrow's public hearing surrounding the issue.
Following the arrests of Jesse and Christina, Winnebago County began
razing trees on the Kent Creek wetlands -- one day ahead of the court
date to fight the County's quick-take efforts and in apparent violation
of the IL governor's veto of quick-take legislation.
The Kent Creek blockade desperately needs support! The Chicago Direct
Action Network is organizing rides leaving to the occupation grounds
tonight and Thursday morning to the court house to protest the destruction
of this land by Winnebago County. To get to the occupation grounds tonight
contact Ray after 4 pm, (773)793-4127, or contact Mel for a ride tomorrow
Mobilization: Kent Creek court hearing! Only 1.5 hours from Chicago!
9:30 am, Thursday, July 13, 400 W. State St., Rockford, IL Winnebago
County Courthouse, 4th floor, Judge Grub's courtroom The blockade will
also need legal assistance for Jesse and Christina, and for the other
arrests that may inevitably be made as more activists place their bodies
on the line to save these lands. People are also encouraged to support
by donating supplies (cooking, camping, radios, blockade materials),
and monitory support as well. To help from Chicago contact Ray at the
Chicago Direct Action Network at 773-793-4127
For more information, contact local organizer Jessie Crow at 815-332-7044
or 815-968-3046. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following are directions to the occupation, and a brief background
of this struggle:
DIRECTIONS to Rockford/Kent Creek: Take 90 west or 20 west (it doesn't
matter) to Rockford. If you take 90 west, transfer to 20 west once you
make it into Rockford. In Rockford, take 20 west until you get to the
far west side. The last hwy 20 exit in Rockford is Montague Rd. Go right
Take montague past Harrison Rd. and down a ways to Pierpont. Go left
on Pierpont. Pierpont winds around, goes over a bridge, passes the junkyard,
etc. until you get to Cunningham. Go left on Cunningham -- it's the
3rd house on the left. Park to the left of the house. (there's plenty
of parking and the resident is cool with parking by occupation/blockade
supporters); the exact address is 5530 Cunningham.
BACKGROUND -- Rockford: Winnebago County officials have moved forward
with a planned 'quick-take' of rare wetlands near Rockford that house
Indian burial mounds, despite a veto of quick-take legislation last
Friday by Illinois governor Bill Ryan. A handful of local activists
are attempting to blockade the land from county bulldozers, and are
urging supporters to support the blockade and attend a court hearing
on Thursday in which they will fight the government's attempts to sieze
the land. Two blockade supporters were arrested today.
Landgrab opponents are scheduled to go to court at 9:30am Thursday,
July 13th regarding the case, and mass demonstration and support at
the courthouse is desperately needed. In addition, coalition members
have established a base camp and blockade on Ditzler�*�s property to
prevent the planned demolition -- but need people to volunteer on the
The coalition opposing the county landgrab includes environmentalists,
farmers, Native American activists, and students, who have come together
to prevent Winnebago County bulldozers from plowing the lands of thirty-year
resident Tom Ditzler, a blind U.S. military veteran, for a proposed
four-lane highway project. The wetlands house Native American burial
County plans call for using $17 million in taxpayer funds to raise
the land with 70 feet of gravel, straighten Kent Creek, and cut down
a portion of a hardwood forest that includes Native American trail trees
and ancient Oaks, one of which is hundreds of years old. Winnebago County
is seizing the privately held wetlands for the Springfield/ Harrison
Extension under a "quick-take" policy that permits the government to
seize private property, begin construction and "settle up" with the
property owner later.
Groups that have rallied around the fight to preserve the wetlands
include Winnebago County Concerned Citizens, Sustain Communities, Midwest
Soaring, Aniwan, the Ho-Chunk Nation, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Illinois
Conservation Voters, and the Chicago Direct Action Network. Supporters
are traveling from as far away as Texas to support the campaign to prevent
the land seizure.
Please help support the blockade and attend Thursday's court hearing!
For more information, contact local organizer Jessie Crow at 815-332-7044
or 815-968-3046. Email: email@example.com
This mobilization call is sponsored by the Chicago Direct Action Network.
Posted as a community service by HammerHard MediaWorks. Labor donated.
Nancy Mikelsons Nancy.Mikelsons@POBOX.COM
Charges dropped against protesters at St. Cloud State
Oct. 2, 2000
All charges against 13 St. Cloud State University protesters stemming
from their actions taken in support of a fired Ojibwe professor have
been dropped. Dr. Nancy Harles, 61, the former assistant director of
SCSU's American Indian Center, had been under contract with the university
for over five years. She was given no explanation for the administration's
decision not to renew her contract, which expired at the end of June.
Harles said in the absence of an official explanation, she has concluded
that "racism, sexism and ageism" were the causes of her termination.
The university's decision set off a wave of campus protests. Members
of SCSU's Color Caucus, a group of minority students and faculty, were
arrested May 4 after attempts to get answers from Interim President
Suzanne Williams resulted in arrests of nine students and four professors
by St. Cloud police officer in full riot gear. The group was ordered
by campus security to leave the office after Williams spoke to them,
saying "there is nothing I can do."
They stayed, however, said student Rob Callahan, because "many of
us feared arrest upon leaving the building." Several hours later, riot
police stormed the building with weapons drawn, according to Callahan.
"During the arrests, some students were pushed around and left with
bruises," he said.
The group, which included Dr. Harles, was taken to Stearns County
jail where they were charged with trespass and released the following
morning. The protesters say the police overreacted to a peaceful show
of civil disobedience.
No official explanation was given for the dropped charges. Protesters
say university and city officials are eager to put the events in past
rather face the issues that led to the arrests.
St. Cloud police raid on Native Studies students, MN May 2000
May 9, 2000
SCSU and Dr. Nancy
LINK to updates: SCSU: A
Tradition of Racism and Hate Crime
CONTACT: Rob Callahan firstname.lastname@example.org
voice mail: (320)203-1075
On the afternoon of May 4, 2000, a group of students and faculty entered
the office area of Interim President Suzanne Williams to demand accountability
for the firing of Dr. Nancy Harles. Williams spoke to us for a few minutes,
refusing to address our questions and telling us there was nothing she
could do, then she left. As we stayed to discuss our options and possible
follow-up actions, campus security sealed the building. Campus security
directors told us to leave, however many of us were afraid we would
be arrested as soon as we left the building, so we refused. Many people
on the outside tried to get food and water in to us, but campus security
officers would not allow this. The heat and air conditioning were both
used in the rooms we were in to make us physically uncomfortable, and
when we were finally removed many of us were dehydrated and feeling
sick because of the high heat and the freezing cold.
Interim President Williams placed calls to St. Cloud Mayor Larry Meyer
and SCPD Chief Dennis O'Keefe demanding that the police be sent in to
remove us as a show of force. I do not know what O'keefe's response
was, but the mayor did not want to make this a police issue. However,
he eventually gave in to Interim President Williams' pressure and just
after midnight on May 4th, the building was stormed by riot police.
Many of the police entered our area with weapons drawn. We quickly
shouted to them that we were unarmed, and they put their weapons away.
During the arrests, some students were pushed around and left with bruises.
I was locked by the neck to a cabinet in the office. Since they could
not cut my lock, they cut the cabinet apart to remove me. It is my understanding
that I am to be charged with destruction of university property. Because
of this, I will lose my job at the campus radio station and I might
face a suspension.
The police appeared to have been lied to before the strike. In addition
to having their weapons drawn, many of them asked me repeatedly where
our bombs and booby traps were. I had previously informed the head of
campus security that there would be no violence committed on our part,
but the police were obviously told that we were either armed or that
we had set traps for them.
One member of our group attempted to leave peacefully because he had
his three year old god-son with him. He was arrested and the child was
traumatized and taken away. There were three people in our group with
video cameras. The cameras were all confiscated, and we are told that
the tapes from those cameras have been lost. I had many items of religious
significance confiscated in spite of my protests and my attempts to
explain why I could not allow them to be taken.
We were brought to the Stearns County jail and issued citations. We
were all charged with trespass. I was given additional charges, and
the police wanted to keep me there, but since they could not get the
lock off of my neck, they could not put me in a cell so they let me
go. We were all processed and released by about 5:00 am.
This afternoon several hundred students rallied on campus to protest
this action. After the rally, the crowd marched, chanting "We want Nancy!",
to the administration building to demand an explanation. Campus security
was at the door to her office blocking us. I was finally allowed inside
to demand an audience. I was told that Williams was off campus, that
nobody knew where she was, and that she would not be back until Tuesday.
I later learned that a friend of mine will be meeting with her on an
unrelated issue at 4:00pm today, so this was obviously a lie.
We are still demanding that Dr. Nancy Harles be given her job back
immediately. We are now also demanding that the Interim President make
an immediate public statement concerning her actions last night and
over the course of the last academic year. I will be posting information
on our website as it comes in. The phone number for the Office of the
President is also on our website, along with her e-mail address.
I will post articles from the local media on our website this afternoon.
The Office of the President issued the following statement this morning.
Hundreds, if not thousands of copies were found in various common areas
and it was also e-mailed to all faculty. I will post it as it is written
without editorializing, but I will say that the claim that we were escorted
peacefully from the building is a very blatant lie:
May 4, 2000
As you may be aware, Wednesday a rally in support of a staff member
whose contract has not been renewed ended with a sit-in at the Administrative
The protestors -- nine students and four employees -- occupied the
President's Conference Room throughout the afternoon. They were reminded
of the University's policy on First Amendment expressions, which may
occur in University facilities only during normal hours of operation.
The protesters were asked to leace the building at closing time, 5:30,
and were told that if they failed to do so the police would be called.
The protesters were given numerous opportunities to continue their sit-in
outdoors, but chose not to move. Shortly after midnight, after numerous
requests to vacate, the protesters were peacefully escorted out of the
building by St. Cloud Police, who charged each demonstrator with trespassing.
To the best of SCSU's knowledge, there was no physical violence of any
SCSU continues its efforts to achieve diversity and social justice
on campus. SCSU also supports everyone's right to express their opinions
in a manner in keeping with the University's Firts Amendment expressions
protocol, which precludes sit-ins inside buildings after hours.
Media Contact: Rob Callahan
email@example.com voice mail:
(5/01/00) - Proving once again that if you rock the boat at SCSU you'll
find yourself drowning in a sea of white supremacy, the university has
terminated the contract of Dr. Nancy Harles. Dr. Harles is a professor
and director of the American Indian Center at Saint Cloud State University,
who has worked dilligently on behalf of American Indian students in
a hostile work environment for years. If there is any doubt in the reader's
mind that racism was behind this decision, one need only examine the
track record of the Vice President directly responsible for this travesty.
Rob Callahan spoke with Vernon Bellecourt personally about this issue,
and he was assured that any effort to get Dr. Harles' job back will
have the full support of the American Indian Movement.
We will rally on Wednesday, May 3 at 1:00 pm outside of the Administration
Building in support of Dr. Nancy Harles. Whatever must be done will
be done to ensure that she is not taken away from the students of Saint
Cloud State University.
The following letter was sent to Interim President Suzanne Williams (scsupres@StCloudState.edu)
by the Faculty and Staff of Color Caucus on April 27, 2000:
The Faculty and Staff of Color Caucus protest the unjust firing of
our colleague, Dr. Nancy Harles. Dr. Harles is a respected member of
this campus and community and has consistently shown her dedication
for the well being of students and the campus community. The firing
of Dr. Harles directly contradicts the university's public claim to
recruit and retain faculty and staff of color.
We understand that Dr. Harles has been given a non-renewal notice
due in part to a lack of contact with students. This is indeed ironic
considering that Dr. Harles just received a nomination for Faculty Member
of the Year from the Student Body.
Furthermore, Dr. Harles' non-renewal is based on two annual evaluations
in her five year tenure. One of the evaluations was from past-president
Grube's evaluation which indicated positive work performance as Interim
Director of the American Indian Center. The second "annual" evaluation
was based solely on a four month period from the American Indian Center
Director, Don Day, who is currently on leave.
Of major concern are the Contract Violations that have occured on
the part of the administration. According to the MSUAASF contract 1999-2001
Article 10, Section A, Sub. 3(f), "Evaluation. Probationary ASF Members
shall be provided annual, written performance evaluation based on job
performance as established by each campus. Job performance deficiencies
noted in this evaluation are to be addressed in a plan for performance
improvement developed by the ASF Member and supervisor."
Similarly according to Article 21, Section (f). "Performance Evaluations:
Prior to implementing procedures for ASF Members' performance evaluation,
the President and/or his/her designee shall meet and confer with the
Campus Association. The instruments and procedures shall be uniform
throughout the campus. Each ASF Members shall be evaluated regularly
in accordance with these procedures. Job performance deficiencies noted
in this evaluation are to be addressed in a plan for performance improvement
developed by the ASF Members and supervisor."
Dr. Harles has only received two evaluations instead of five, and
no verbal or written plan for performance improvement developed by her
supervisor. This directly violates the MSUAASF contract.
We demand the immediate rectification of contract violations by withdrawing
the non-renewal notice and developing a plan that would improve her
working conditions. This plan should involve the input of Dr. Harles
and her representatives.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You may be contacted by someone claiming to be an
"official representative" of the university or of the affected population
and told that the issue has been resolved or that the protest has been
cancelled. Rob Callahan is to be considered the only reliable source
of information regarding resolution or cancellations. The rally will
take place unless Dr. Harles is returned to her former position. In
the event that this happens, Rob Callahan will send out notice immediately.
Only accept e-mail from Rob Callahan if it is from the following address:
NOTE: Rob was arrested in the ensuing police raid. He has been instrumental
in supporting the Manitoba Cree in fighting hydroelectric development,
and set up a website fro the cause.)
website - http://stcloudstate.tripod.com
media contact: Rob Callahan, firstname.lastname@example.org
voice mail: (320)203-1075
Shortly after 9:00 am on May 9, Dr. Nancy Harles emerged from the
Administration building at SCSU to speak to a crowd of supporters who
had gathered outside in an area overlooked by the university president's
office. SCSU administration is reconsidering its decision not to renew
Dr. Harles' contract now, and Dr. Harles said that, for the first time,
she was asked to present her side of the story. In essence, she was
granted her long-overdue due process.
The rally that took place during the meeting between Harles and Williams
was a drastic change of pace from last week. There was no visible police
or security presence. Protesters used chalk to write slogans on the
sidewalk in plain view of the president's office. Some speaking and
discussion took place. It was generally agreed that our most important
goals now will be getting charges dropped from last week's arrests,
preventing retaliation against the hundreds who rallied in support of
Dr. Harles, and keeping the university on the track to retaining Nancy
Harles as an employee.
Supporters included students, staff and faculty from The SCSU American
Indian Center, Faculty and Staff of Color Caucus, M.E.Ch.A. and other
student organizations. Many other students and faculty who were not
associated with an organization were also present. Concerned citizens
from Minneapolis were also in attendance. The meeting and rally were
covered by St. Cloud Times, KVSC 88.1 FM, and WCCO Television news.
Dr. Harles said that while she is currently the focus of attention,
the real issue is that of the sincerity of the university's commitment
to recruit and retain faculty members of color.
I met with administration yesterday to talk about getting our trespass
charges dropped, but so far the university has been pretty unresponsive.
We will continue to ask and, if necessary, demand that these charges
be dropped and that a committment is made to refrain from retaliation
toward the students and professors who were arrested.
See the website for our response to the SCPD's statements about last
week's police raid. I'll also be posting KVSC's story from today, and
St. Cloud Times' story when it is out. St. Cloud Times can also be viewed
I sincerely hope that we will see a lasting change in the way this
institution views faculty members of color and their value to students
of color as a result of this. I am, however, disappointed that it took
sit-ins and riot cops to light this particular fire. Your support and
input over the last week has been extremely helpful and influential
in determining the outcome thusfar. Pidamaya.
Rob Callahan email@example.com
Acting Coordinator, AIM-SCSU
the Michigan takeover - pictures, names... secret
U of Mich. students occupy anti-Indian secret society Feb. 2000
end 37-day sit-in at secret society's office
The Associated Press
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Protesters at the University of Michigan
on Monday ended a 37-day sit-in at the office of a secret campus
society accused of mocking and misusing American Indian customs
Michigamua, whose members have included former President Gerald
Ford and late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy, has offices
in the tower of the Michigan Union, decorated like a wigwam.
On Feb. 6, a group of minority students occupied the seventh-floor
office atop the tower of the Michigan Union and demanded that
Michigamua be expelled.
The protesters said the 98-year-old society had not honored
a 1989 promise to drop the use of "Native American culture and
pseudo-culture" from its rituals.
In addition to the eight students occupying the office, as many
as 100 supporters of the Students of Color Coalition slept outside
the locked tower door. Others brought in food or did laundry for
The protesters left at 3:45 p.m. Monday, university spokesman
Joel Seguine said.
"They said they felt they had gotten all they could out of being
in the tower," he said.
In a news release, the coalition expressed disappointment with
the university's response to its complaints.
"It has become clear that the university administration, President
(Lee) Bollinger and Michigamua have no intentions of honoring
the 1989 contract, nor are they willing to adopt the necessary
degree of sincerity and honesty that would allow all parties to
reach a fair agreement," the statement said.
The students left after genuine and pseudo-Indian artifacts
were removed from the Michigamua office Monday, Seguine said.
He said they were taken to the university's Natural History Museum
Michigamua records were returned to its leaders, he said.
The university had said it did not intend to use campus police
to end the sit-in.
February 27, 2000
President Bollinger's February 25th Statement
For the past 21 days the Students of Color Coalition have occupied
the Michigan Union Tower in protest of three secret "honorary"
societies. Our primary concern has been with one of these societies,
Michigamua, because of the racism imbedded in the behavior and
practices of their organization.
For the past three decades the Native American community at
the University of Michigan has attempted through dialogue, negotiations,
and formal complaints with Michigamua, University Administration,
and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, to heal the institutional
disease created by Michigamua.
For the past ninety-eight years the University of Michigan has
conspired in the destruction of a culture through direct institutional
support of and involvement with Michigamua.
We will no longer allow our culture to be enslaved, raped, and
prostituted by Michigamua or by the University of Michigan. We
stand together to seek a positive and just resolution to a disease
that has plagued our community for too many generations.
We have demanded that the University disassociate itself from
and sever its unique institutional relationship with Michigamua
and the other two secret societies housed in the Michigan Union
Tower. Our demands have been met with an inadequate and unacceptable
response from University Administration. We have raised valid
concerns of a hostile campus climate created by an organization
predicated on the stereotyping and humiliation of a specific racial
group. The University has answered with the formation of a panel
to discuss the issue of student organization office space, but
has failed to confront the underlying reality of direct institutional
support of an organization that, despite legal agreeme nts, continues
to subscribe to racist and culturally destructive practices and
In 1989 a written legal agreement was reached between Michigamua,
the University, and a Native American student in which Michigamua
acknowledged the behaviors and practices of their organizations
as being offensive to Native American people. In the contract
Michigamua agreed to eliminate all references to Native American
culture, pseudo-culture, and parodies and extensions thereof.
The Office of the President has kept a copy of that agreement
since its signing on November 1 of that year.
It is unfortunate that, despite repeated attempts by the Native
American Student Association and other student organizations and
individuals to appeal to administrators for the enforcement of
the agreement, the University of Michigan has maintained a position
of willful negligence. Just as Michigamua's traditions of exploiting
Native American culture and religion has continued into the year
2000, with the exception of several high- level administrators
who are members of Michigamua, the trend of careful administrative
neutrality has been maintained under the current administration
of President Lee C. Bollinger.
In his most recent statement on February 25, our president made
no mention of the racial implications inherent within the organization
of Michigamua. Instead he chose to remain hidden behind values
of the First Amendment and free speech rights and focus solely
on the issue of office space allocation to student groups, a process
that is already existent through the Michigan Student Assembly.
Of course First Amendment rights are a valuable and important
part of the University community, yet are not the rights to live
in an academic environment free of negative stereotyping and ethnic
intimidation equally important? How can one aspect of the constitution
be used to manipulate the intent of the entire document in serving
its purpose for providing liberty and justice for all?
We hope that the University of Michigan and President Bollinger
will find the courage to confront the issue of institutional racism
within this public university. We cannot leave the tower and allow
for this racism to be reincarnated in this public facility under
the guise of free speech. President Bollinger must make the bold
stance to protect the rights of Native American people, and act
according to not only the proclaimed values of the University
but to the intent and purpose of the entire United States Constitution.
We are confident that President Bollinger has the wisdom and ability
to make such clear decisions and affect positive change in the
interest of guiding this institution in a healthy direction as
we enter this new millennium.
Dear Member of the University Community:
The recent protests about the Michigamua student organization
have raised an important issue regarding the University's policy
on the allocation of office space to student organizations. Currently,
there are three student organizations in the tower of the Michigan
Union whose offices are not subject to periodic review and reallocation.
There may be other such organizations in other facilities throughout
the University. Space allocation is a serious and important question
for the University. Office facilities on our campus are at a premium,
and it is important for us to examine whether space is currently
being allocated in a manner that is fair and equitable to all
student organizations. Interim Vice President for Student Affairs
Royster Harper has recommended and I have agreed to initiate a
process to examine our policies and practices on space allocation
for student groups with particular attention to the question of
under what conditions, if any, a student organization should be
entitled to space which is not subject to a periodic assignment
process, review and potential reallocation. Interim Vice President
Harper will immediately establish a panel comprised of three senior
administrators from the Schools and Colleges to examine and make
recommendations on this issue. The panel will gather public input
in a variety of ways including holding public hearings to solicit
student, staff, faculty and community member input. The panel
will work expeditiously and make its recommendations before the
end of the term. The University will then make a decision about
the assignment and use of the Michigan Union tower and any other
exclusively assigned space that may exist. In my view, those decisions
must be made in a way that does not penalize any group for its
views or beliefs and yet fully considers history and past practices.
During the course of this process, the three student groups that
currently have offices in the tower have voluntarily agreed to
refrain from using them.
The University must create a learning environment where each
student is intellectually engaged and participates fully. This
requires a climate of openness, respect and tolerance. Day in
and day out we are actively engaged in cultivating this climate
through activities at every level in the University. For example,
I have recentl established a commission, chaired by Provost and
Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Nancy Cantor, to
look broadly at the undergraduate experience. Among other things,
the commission will be examining our recruitment and retention
of students and faculty, our interdisciplinary programs, including
ethnic studies, and other programs that relate to improving the
climate on our campus for all students. The Schools and Colleges
are also engaged in a variety of creative efforts to improve the
learning environment and our students themselves are working at
numerous activities to ensure that their peers feel welcome and
that student voices are heard and respected on our campus. Improving
the learning environment for all students is a priority. I am
committed to this goal and will continue to engage in the important
conversations that are occurring about the climate here for all
members of our community.
Lee C. Bollinger
February 21, 2000
By Joe Reilly
An American Disease
A great frustration has challenged my spirit for the past fifteen
days. It is the same frustration that has confronted Native people
here for 98 years. Imbedded in disrespect it is combined with
ignorance, ambivalence, racism, and elitism and is rooted in the
soils of colonialism and conquest. It is fed by centuries of dishonesty
and lies, and is strengthened with institutional ties and policies,
sprouting ferociously in the landscape of American culture. This
frustration transcends the small space in which it has repeatedly
surfaced: a rectangular �wigwam� high above the rest of the University
of Michigan Ann Arbor campus.
Prior to our occupation of the Michigan Union tower over two
weeks ago, the three floors of meeting space within this public
building were only accessible to members of three secret �honorary�
societies and to select university administrators. Over two weeks
ago seven students and myself gained access to this seventh floor
room. Our goal was very clear and simple: to liberate this space
that for 70 years has been used exclusively by one of these tower
societies, Michigamua, to appropriate Native American culture
and disrespect Native American people.
After three decades of attempted dialogue and negotiation with
Michigamua and with University administration, the Students of
Color Coalition decided it was time to take action. We acted in
accordance with our ancestral rights and have remained here on
that principle for fifteen days. We have compromised our commitments
as students and employees to stand up against this injustice,
and have helped the public reflect on this long history of institutionalized
racism that is so well-rooted in University tradition.
In 1902 a group of white men at the University of Michigan,
25 of the best �leaders� on campus, formed an organization based
on service and pride to the University. This strong sense of honor
and prestige was enhanced through the creation of a savage warrior
ideal, based on stereotypical and romantic images of American
Indian men. The leadership society dubbed itself the �Tribe of
Michigamua,� and began a legacy of adopting images, rituals, and
artifacts of Native American people into the identity of their
organization. Michigamua gained its exclusive space within the
tower of the Michigan Union in the early 1930�s. Before that time
the top three floors of the union were used for utility purposes.
In 1933 Michigamua alum Fielding Yost invited his �tribal� brothers
to use this space indefinitely without rent. A letter from �Great
Scalper� Yost, as he was known to fellow members, hangs on the
wall of the seventh floor meeting space and describes the original
plans for the �wigwam,� an imitation of the traditional Anishnaabeg
structure. The letter, dated May 15th, 1933 reads: �And now Michigamua
plans its own home, a real wigwam. Up in the tower of the Michigan
Union, high above the campus, there is a vacant room. Michigamua
has been invited to make use of this space-without cost, without
rental, without taxes. All that remains is to convert the rough,
unfinished interior into a permanent cost-free Council Wigwam
for the Tribes to come.�
Inside the �Wigwam�
Some 70 years later the room still resembles a lodge in its
design and structure, an obvious result of the original plans
of the Michigamua Wigwam Committee. The interior walls are covered
in fake wood paneling and highlighted with a birch bark pattern
painted on the surrounding columns. Along the walls hang metal
plaques honoring �Great Scalper� Yost and other �Departed Braves.�
The wood shingled ceiling curves into a dome shaped mural painted
with images of wolves and maize. In the center of the ceiling
hangs a stuffed snowy owl with wings spread full in a sad lifeless
A large wooden table sits central in the meeting space and displays
photographs showing among other rituals, individual members standing
on the table beneath the owl while others encircle him chanting
pseudo Indian melodies. The room is infested with historical evidence
of ninety-eight year old traditions based on the appropriation
and desecration of American Indian culture, spirituality and religion.
During our 360 hour occupation of the �wigwam,� we have uncovered a pipe,
hides torn from a drum frame, a cradle board, beadwork, fake eagle feather
headdresses, numerous imitation tomahawks, and countless other examples
of authentic and imitation cultural objects. We have also found photo
albums depicting pipe ceremonies and meeting journals outlining the Michigamua
tradition of adopting pseudo-Indian names. A photograph dated 1996 shows
a Michigamua member holding a pipe in one hand and a glass of beer in
the other. A 1997 directory gives examples of Michigamua songs and poems.
A �Pride of 2000� journal lists each member�s name as �Fighting Wolves.�
The theme song of their organization, published in the 1997 directory,
is �Rally Round,� calling forth the brave men of Michigamua to be ready
Michigamua Braves we are
Rally round, ding ding
Michigamua Braves we are
We hunt the bear and the jaguar
Rally round, ding ding
We�re a very powerful clan
Rally round, ding ding
We�re a very powerful clan
Our Wigwams are in Michigan
Rally round, ding ding
Got�um squaw, no papoose
Rally round, ding ding
Got�um squaw, no papoose
Don�t do better, we turn�um loose
Rally round, ding ding
Whoop and raise the great scalp lock
We are the Braves of Old Michigamua
Rally round, ding ding
Whoop and raise the great scalp lock
Rally round, ding ding
Cut�um off with tomahawk
Rally round, ding ding
Just come forth from our Wig-a-wama
Got our war paint on and we don�t give a damma!
With a Ki-Yi-Yi and a war-WHOOP!
Through Our Eyes
From our perspective as Native people and as people of color,
the destruction and hostility caused by organizations such as
Michigamua are painfully obvious. They remind us of a larger society
who accepts the degradation of our cultures in the form of sports
mascots and Hollywood portrayals. To University administrators
however, our concerns are misunderstood, ignored, and our rights
For as long as Native people have been enrolled at the University
of Michigan, our community has opposed the hostile environment
created by Michigamua. In 1972 a Native student filed a complaint
with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. In 1989 an agreement
was signed between Michigamua, a Native student, and a University
representative in which Michigamua agreed to eliminate all references
to Native American culture, and pseudo-culture from their organization.
For the decade following that agreement, our community has attempted
to dialogue with the University and Michigamua while being assured
that they were abiding by the agreement. It has proven to be one
of many broken treaties, insulting our dignity as human beings
and displaying a consistent University policy of neglecting its
Native students� cultural and civil rights.
The Students of Color Coalition is not asking much of the University
of Michigan, we simply ask for dignity and respect. We have demanded
that the University sever all affiliation with and subsidy of
Michigamua, primarily by withdrawing the exclusive space provided
to their organization. We have called for the space in the tower
to become public in the interest of the entire University community.
Free to be Racist
One full week after witnessing firsthand the atrocities and
exposed lies within the Michigamua �wigwam,� University President
Lee Bollinger came forth with a statement defending their actions
under the guise of free speech. A legal expert on the First Amendment,
President Bollinger stated: For a University, a fundamental principle
is that, with rare exceptions, students, faculty, and staff must
not be treated differently because of their beliefs or the expressions
of those beliefs. That principle has direct application to this
controversy. Some have argued that one of the societies using
the Union tower space, Michigamua, should be stripped of its University
affiliation and lose its exclusive use of that space because it
has a history of practices that demean and degrade Native American
culture and spirituality. Under our principles it is clear that
student organizations must not be recognized or derecognized,
or suffer any other penalty, because the ideas they espouse or
beliefs they adhere to are offensive, or even dangerous, to our
According to this philosophy, President Bollinger is ready to
defend and support the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis when they come
to the University as student organizations. He is also willing,
according to his statement, to use public funds to sustain black
minstrel shows and mock Christian prayer societies at this public
institution. I question whether he would allow for any of these
groups to manifest themselves so deeply within the University
as he has for Michigamua. We do not feel comfortable leaving the
tower without an assurance from the University that these racial
injustices will discontinue after we leave. Our interests are
for those seven generations that will follow. Will they be forced
to endure the same mockery and disrespect as we have? Surely those
that have fought before us kept the same teachings close to their
hearts. We hope that this wound can be healed and that the health
of the larger sickness will improve. We pray that the Creator
will guide us in making decisions that will provide a better place
for Native people and all people within these walls and throughout
over secret group
Michigan news briefs
February 21, 2000
A handful of University of Michigan minority students who have
waged a two-week sit-in protesting a secret society on campus
said they're prepared to spend next week's spring break in the
"We're prepared to do what it takes," said Farah Mongeau, a
first-year law student and member of the Students of Color Coalition.
On Feb. 6, eight students took over Michigamua's offices in the
tower of the Michigan Union.
Mongeau said Michigamua uses American Indian artifacts and rituals
during meetings, in violation of a 1989 agreement to end the practices.
The protesters are demanding that the university sever ties with
Michigamua and two other societies, the Vulcans and Phoenix, because
of their association with Michigamua.
Michigamua spokesman Nick Delgado said the society, which was
founded in 1901 as an honorary society for seniors to promote
leadership and community service, no longer uses the artifacts
and has stored them for several years. The society has occupied
an office in the Michigan Union tower since 1919.
On Saturday, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton had lunch
with the protesters and said he would try to bring in other prominent
activists such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson to join the sit-in if
the matter is not resolved soon, Mongeau said.
Two university administrators met with both groups, and another
meeting is planned for today.
from the Native American Community
February 19, 2000
The struggles of Native Americans are not new. Since European
contact, we have fought to retain our dignity in the face of oppression
and assimilation. Sadly, we continue to struggle at the University
of Michigan. In 1972, courageous members of our community informed
Michigamua and the University of Michigan about how their actions
and inactions demean our personal dignity and undermine our culture
through perversion of our religious practices. Our concerns were
reiterated in 1978 and again in 1986. In 1989, an agreement was
signed between Michigamua, the University, and a Native American
complainant, in which Michigamua promised "to eliminate all references
to Native American culture and psuedo-culture and extensions and
parodies thereof." Realizing that the agreement had not been upheld,
Native American concerns were reiterated in 1997. Our struggle
In 1902, when Michigamua started "playing Indian," our parents,
grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters were
being forcibly taken from our homes and communities, placed in
boarding schools and white homes to be stripped of our "heathen"
culture, whitewashed, and shamed into thinking that the traditional
ways of our ancestors were inferior. We were punished for speaking
our languages. Until 1979, we were legally forbidden to practice
our own religious beliefs while Michigamua performed mock rituals
on the lawn of the University President's house. Today, Michigamua
continues to perform rituals and naming rituals that insult the
ceremonies that we and many of our communities hold central to
our identity today.
Universities exist to educate people. The University of Michigan
and Michigamua claim to train "no less than the leaders and the
best." The promotion of discriminatory practices in antithetical
to education. In 1989, Michigamua and the University agreed that
the practices were offensive. And yet, despite agreements and
dialogues with the Native community, both have allowed the cultural
insensitivity, ridicule of a culture, and stereotyping of Native
Americans to persist. They make light of the struggles we have
faced as a people.
The situation is intolerable and inexcusable especially since
a land grant by our ancestors in 1817 led to the creation of the
University of Michigan.
Now, Michigamua tells us through Nick Delgado that they want
"to propagate healing." If Michigamua insincere about a healing
process, we suggest the following:
To the University Administration:
- Apologize to the Native American community for insulting
our cultures and undermining our personal dignity and to the
university community for propagating a hostile environment for
- Abide by the 1989 agreement by ending all practices which
ridicule native American culture. Such practices include but
are not limited to: "Indian" names, Bear and Deer meat feasts,
pipe ceremonies, and the name Michigamua.
- Vacate the Tower and hold open meetings to show that culturally
offensive practices do not continue.
- End the policy of tapping administration, faculty, and staff
as a way to ensure that Michigamua does not receive benefits
that other student groups are denied.
- Apologize to the Native American community for allowing Michigamua
to continue its cultural degradations despite being informed
of the situation on numerous occasions.
- Sever all affiliation and privileges currently given to Michigamua.
- Apologize for the harm done to the entire university community
through informed inaction and complacency toward Michigamua's
activities, acknowledging that such inaction has made a farce
of the educative process and of diversity initiatives.
- Establish a policy, which indicates that administration,
faculty, and staff should not participate in Michigamua or be
affiliated in any way with the group through "honorary" membership
since it clearly establishes a conflict of interest with supposed
university goals of education and diversity.
- Agree that no action, legal or academic, will be taken against
any student in connection with or arising out of any act, omission,
or event related to the occupation of the Tower.
We are not the first to fight this battle. We wish to be the last.
We do not want the next generation to have to fight this battle again.
We stand united in this fight as a Native American community. We are
grateful for the sacrifices made by the Students of Color Coalition
in trying to peacefully address this injustice. They have taught us
all the meaning of humility and integrity.
By DAVID GOODMAN
Associated Press Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Eight minority students have seized
the office of a distinguished University of Michigan organization
for more than a week to protest the group's alleged use of Indian
symbols in its rituals.
The protesters say the 99-year-old Michigamua student society,
which counts former President Gerald Ford as an alumnus, has not
honored a 1989 promise to drop Indian-style rituals.
The protesters want the university to evict the group from its
seventh-floor office in the Michigan Union.
"Our voices have been continually ignored," said Joe Reilly,
21, one of 213 American Indian students on the 36,600-student
campus. "We had no alternative to accepting the continued degradation
of our people but to stand up for ourselves.''
Michigamua, which counts six women and eight minorities among
its 24 current members, claims it rejects the old practices.
But the protesters don't believe it and say they have evidence
such as Indian pipes, drums and headdresses found in Michigamua's
office and a recent photo showing a member holding a peace pipe
in one hand and a glass of beer in the other.
The sit-in began Feb. 6, after the protesters got a key to the
Michigamua office from a sympathetic member, said one of the students
involved, Diego Bernal, 23. Since then, as many as 100 supporters
have slept on the fourth floor, outside the staircase that leads
to the office. Others have brought in food or offered to do laundry
for the protesters.
"People see this fight as symbolic of the racism on campus,''
said Jessica Curtin, a 25-year-old graduate student and Michigan
Student Assembly member. "There's been a steady decline in minority
Enrollment of blacks, Hispanics and Indians at Michigan has
fallen from 14 percent in 1995 to 13 percent in 1999. A rising
number of Asian-American students has kept total minority enrollment
steady at 25 percent.
Two lawsuits by opponents of Michigan's use of affirmative action
in admissions could further reduce the number of minorities on
Administrators and campus police have taken a hands-off approach
toward the sit-in. Royster Harper, interim vice president for
student affairs, said she urged the protesters on Monday morning
to talk with university officials and members of Michigamua.
"The university has a rich tradition of protesting in this manner,"
Harper said. "We have pretty much allowed this kind of expression."
Michigamua (pronounced mi-chi-GAW-muh) was founded in 1901,
its name taken from the Ojibway words for "great water." It annually
invites a small number of campus leaders -- all male until this
year -- to join.
From the beginning, each got a "tribal" name upon initiation.
Ford, a football standout and 1935 graduate, was dubbed "Flipp
'Um Back" Ford.
Ford "always have 'um time to powwow with Old Braves," said
the caption for a picture of the former U.S. president at a 1978
reunion. "He speak 'um wise words to the Tribe of '78."
Ford, who lives in Rancho Mirage, Calif., was out of his office
Monday and could not be reached for comment, said his scheduler,
Other Michigamua rituals included wearing loincloths, body painting
and holding ceremonies around a totem pole. In response to growing
criticism, the group promised in 1989 to abandon such practices.
The current members reject the past practices and are "trying
to alleviate the pain" they have caused Indians, said spokesman
Nick Delgado, a 21-year-old political science and sociology major
Michigamua's rituals were overhauled in 1990 to comply with
the agreement, Delgado said.
"It's important that we go through this healing process, especially
with the Native American community," he said. "It's important
that we build bridges."
AP-NY-02-14-00 1621EST Copyright � Associated Press. All rights
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doctrine of international copyright law.
Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, is a beautiful
Big Ten campus-city: an academic, cultural, and sports mecca.
It is the hometown of Bob Seger who memorialized Main Street in
a hit song. Buildings are an architectural wonder combing church
and secular designs. Streets and sidewalks teem with people representing
ethnic nationalities and religious denominations from around the
world. There are no borders here. City and campus are one.
Traditions like the annual Naked Mile Run (winter) and the Great
Spring Pot Festival (smoking, not cooking) are warily tolerated.
Like most college towns this one is loaded with all kinds of traditions,
societies, organizations. There is never a reason to be bored
in Ann Arbor.
The UM has an affirmative action program and mission of multiculturalism.
Documents and speeches by campus administrators demonstrate that
the campus-city has zero-tolerance for anything (or anybody) that
interferes with human and civil rights...anything that denies
people equal access and opportunity. In the last eight days the
UM has become increasingly embarrassed by its own contradictions
of "do what I say, not as I do." Broken promises and treaties
are an all too familiar sound to American Indian students and
Students of Color Coalition members who have taken an action being
heard around the world via electronic newsletters and by those
in mainstream press who are not afraid to speak the truth...no
matter how much it bothers advertisers and mainstream society.
The Michigan Union is a four-story structure nearly a city block
long housing a plethora of student organizations, The center structure
of the Union is called The Tower and it conceals the Tower Societies:
a group of secret organizations.
To get to The Tower one takes the elevator to the fourth floor.
SOCC members are stationed outside the door leading into the staircase
which houses the secret society's rooms. To gain entrance you
are announced and led up several flights of stairs to the very
top room which houses the Michigamua society. The room has been
occupied by the SOCC for eight days. Michigamua members call themselves
'the wolves." SOCC members call themselves "human rights activists."
SOCC has hung an American flag upside down, the international
distress signal for "help" from one of the windows.
There is nothing to prepare a visitor for this room known as
the Wig Wam. It is a lot smaller than imagined. It is approximately
20 feet long and 15 feet wide. Everything in the room is a bastardized
insulting devotion to American Indian culture and tradition. The
ceiling is a wall-to-wall painting against a deep sky blue background.
In the center of the ceiling...a huge wolf: Michigamua's mascot.
Each of the four sides represents a difference scene: horses,
wolves, corn (maize), and nature. In one corner the year of 1902
is emblazoned, and in its opposite corner is an eagle. The block
"M" decorates the other two corners. Cedar shingles line all four
walls for a few feet and from there to the floor is cheap wood
paneling. Fake birch bark logs frame all the windows and create
framed spaces on the walls. A huge wood conference table (reminiscent
of the middle ages) takes up most of the floor space. The walls
are decorated with: a stuffed moose head, a stuffed owl, and very
old snowshoes, A cigar store Indian and a section of a totem pole
have been turned into lamps. A statue of an Indian man wearing
a full feathered headdress sits in the middle of the table. The
students have inventoried each item.
SOCC members found American Indian items tossed recklessly into
corners and it is obvious these items have never received quality
care. Age-old photographs of Michigamua members are in terrible
condition...ripped and left to rot. A glass case contains approximately
two dozen arrowheads. Another case contains Michigamua lapel pins
that wives of members returned, as part of a memorial, after their
Michigamua husbands died.
SOCC members found photograph albums full of Michigamua hazing
episodes: initiatees are blindfolded and shirtless, holding onto
the fake birch bark logs while Michigamua members paint Greek
fraternity, and other organizational, logos on their skin. Alcohol
containers are prevalent in these photographs. Women attended
many of the parties held in the room.
The fake birch bark log on one wall are decorated with words
written in red paint which were left to drip...to symbolize blood...that
Michigamua members are blood-brothers as determined by one of
their so-called sacred rituals. The words read: now this is the
law of the jungle - as old and as true as the sky and the wolve
that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolve that shall break
it must die and the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law
runneth forward and back for the strength of the pack is the wolve
and the strength of the wolve is the pack - this is the law of
the jungle." As one visitor was heard to say yesterday after reading
this several times, "I think this is what mumbo jumbo must really
A bronze plaque pays tribute to Fielding Yost as "Great Scalper
Yost." A wooden plaque shaped like Michigan uses Hollywood created
monosyllabic words "always fight-um" Photographs of past members,
like President Gerald Ford, deteriorate on the walls, behind falling-apart
frames with glass so dusty it is difficult to recognize the people.
It is, however, a huge plaque dedicated to deceased Michigamua
men that is the most disturbing for it perfectly demonstrates
that from its inception, Michigamua was meant to dehumanize and
mock American Indian people and their culture by engaging in minstrelsy-era
stereotyping. The top reads:
"Braves of the Tribe of Michigamua Called to Happy Hunting Ground."
Small plates carry the names of these dead white men: Squaw Teaser
Lloyd, Silver Tongue Halderman, Limping Duck Gaines, Gaudy Blanket
Robertson, Buffalo Cow Pierce, New Moon Cleaver, White Weasel Lothrup,
Heap Think Wenlsy, and Wattapatimi Gundy." There are a lot more
names but you now have the idea that Michigamua men were (and continue
to be) engaged in ceremonies, rituals, and name-giving to create
insulting and demeaning "little red sambos."
Approximately thirty years ago the American Indian community
asked that Michigamu's rituals be brought to a halt. The Michigan
Department of Civil Rights supported the American Indian students
and their community. Michigamua members agreed to cease these
rituals and to get rid of the offensive objects. Nobody ever checked
to make sure they kept their treaty. They didn't even bother.
They just took their rituals from public view and put them behind
closed doors hoping to forever seal their secret society's bigoted
practices. For any Michigamua member, past or present, to state
that they did not know this was going on, or that they did not
know the items existed, is an insult to intelligence.
The SOCC is comprised of many students representing all four
medicine wheel colors of humanity. On Saturday the room was full
of American Indians, African Americans, Chicano/a, and Asian men
and women, students and community members, of all ages.
The students are in their eighth day of occupation. It is obvious
that before taking this action they versed themselves in University
policy and procedure and they probably know more about it than
do University administrators. The space feels somehow...almost
okay...because an American Indian elder conducted a spiritual
ceremony to cleanse the environment, but only the removal of all
the items, and a fresh paint job, will truly make the space clean
and whole again.
The room is quiet because SOCC members envoke a traditional
way of conducting themselves. If you want to speak, you raise
your hand, and wait to be acknowledged. Nobody interrupts. Nobody
swears or calls names. Nobody has to speak loudly. Each person's
ideas and concerns are thoughtfully considered. There are no arguments.
It is a back-and-forth, give-and-take atmosphere conducted with
dignity and respect. Discussions create realizations. Each of
these students wants to hear what others think...the interest
is apparent on their faces and they listen quietly. The students
are calm, rational, logical, intelligent, courteous, pleasant,
dedicated, passionate, and determined. When they get up to stretch
their legs they do it quietly so as not to disturb others. They
are, most assuredly, not fanatical or revengeful, but rather they
are joined by a solidarity of human rights. They recognize bigotry
when they see it and are not afraid to confront those who would
protect the cherished Michigamua tradition of racism.
These students are looking at the short-term and long-term consequences
of their occupation. They believe in the teachings of Ghandi,
Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chaves, Red Cloud. The students
have been called vulgar names by some campus administrators (and
leaders) and they have restrained from behaving in a similar style.
They are considering what is best not only for themselves but
for future students as well. They are considering the climate
of the campus today and the climate of the campus forever.
American Indian people walk through life knowing they carry
seven generations of their ancestors with them at all times and
that each step taken must consider the seven generations to come.
SOCC members represent what is best among their generation: to
have a purpose, to be knowledgeable, and to courageously defend
civil rights. They present great hope for the future.
Critics will say that SOCC is"causing trouble." No they are
not. They are merely responding to the trouble caused by broken
promises and ongoing ignorance and bigotry. Critics will say,
"who do they think they are?" These students do not have to think
about who they are. With great clarity they know who they are.
Cynics will say, "they're just trying to make a name for themselves."
No. They are earning their names by living up to the ideals and
principles instilled in them by all their relations, past and
present. They are earning their names so that one day their names
will be spoken with respect and their children will learn from
humane deeds performed today.
University officials clearly are at a loss as to how to present
themselves to SOCC. A community member noted, "it is an insult
to the intelligence and dignity of these students that University
officials are not acting on behalf of their well-being...that
they can't come up here and have a dialogue."
The University has recently made the decision to rid itself
of the grotesque "maize-colored halo" surrounding Michigan Stadium.
Critics (by the thousands) have loudly complained that the "halo"
is an eyesore. It is a shame that most people are more interested
in how the stadium looks then in the racist actions of a student
organization. Surely if the University can divest itself of the
grotesque halo then it can divest itself of The Tower Societies...forever.
Let's hope that the University of Michigan's underlying theme
is NOT 'you can judge us by our cover."
Protest Campus Club's Indian Relics
By ROBYN MEREDITH
New York Times
February 13, 2000
ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 12 -- A group of minority student protesters
occupying the quarters of a prestigious student club at the University
of Michigan here has forced a debate that somewhat mirrors the
nation's struggle to come to terms with its racist history.
Eight students have occupied the office of Michigamua, a by-invitation-only
club for campus leaders whose alumni include former President
Gerald R. Ford and former Justice Frank Murphy of the Supreme
The students, American Indians, blacks and other minority members,
belong to the Students of Color Coalition and are objecting to
the club's past practice of adapting American Indian traditions
for club rituals.
The students took over the Michigamua offices on the seventh
floor of the Michigan Union tower last Sunday and dug through
the attic of the club, which began letting women in last fall.
They found sacred Indian pipes and drums, feathered headdresses,
a cradle board, and club memorabilia depicting decades-old practices
of club members dressing up in headdresses and loincloths.
The demonstrators put the items on display and have been conducting
tours -- for about 1,500 students so far -- of Michigamua's club
den, where members have met since 1934. The club was formed in
The presence of the artifacts had long been suspected by American
Indian students but apparently came as a surprise to the current
club members, many alumni and university officials.
"Everything in there is offensive," said Hap McCue, 67, an adjunct
lecturer of Chippewa language and culture at the university, who
took the tour. "Why do a group of real intelligent people take
what is our ancestry and who we are and make a mockery of it?"
Club members have apologized and said they are willing to change
any club practices.
"Our current organization was not aware of the artifacts up
there," said Nick Delgado, 21, a senior.
"At no time was anyone intending to hurt the Native American
community. That doesn't mean that didn't happen."
The university has been mediating the dispute. "The university
does not in any way condone any kind of actions or behavior that
mocks any kind of culture," said E. Royster Harper, interim vice
president for student affairs.
Current student members, Ms. Harper said, do not hold the views
of past members. The notion that the club mocked Indians "fits
the legacy of the organization," Ms. Harper, "but it doesn't fit
the members now." She added, "Doesn't this sound like our whole
country's issue of slavery?"
Club members and alumni are hoping the club's past practices
will not cost it its affiliation with the university and its meeting
"As alumni, we take full responsibility for all of the archival
and historical artifacts and documents found in the attic of the
den," said Joseph F. Devyak Jr., chairman of Michigamua's Old
Wolves Council of alumni. "Simply put, it is our fault that they
weren't properly removed."
But Joe A. O'Reilly, 21, a senior majoring in environmental
justice and racism who serves as a spokesman for the Students
of Color Coalition, said that he and other American Indian activists
had objected to Michigamua's practices for years and had won promises
from the club in the past to stop using Indian artifacts and stereotypical
depictions of Indians. Their finds show that those promises have
not been kept, he said.
"It is contributing to the destruction of our culture," said
Mr. O'Reilly, who is one of the demonstrators occupying the club.
He found particularly offensive a photo of club members in which
one holds an Indian pipe in one hand and a plastic cup of beer
in the other. "This is a religious and sacred object to us," he
His group has several demands: an apology, that the university
sever all ties to Michigamua, that the club's space be made available
to all students, that all references to Indian culture be eliminated
from club use, and that all artifacts be given back to the Indian
community. Michigamua has said it would agree to all of the demands
except giving up its meeting space and university affiliation.
About 210 of the university's 37,000 students are American Indians.
Michigamua has never had an Indian member.
Some students questioned whether the club should be kicked out
of the university building.
"If they are willing to change their ways, why don't they let
them?" asked Sandeep M. Jani, 19, a sophomore studying biopsychology.
Others were less forgiving.
Michigamua members adopted nicknames, which themselves show
the nation's changing cultural tastes. A photo of the class of
1902 shows "young man of many squaws Brown" and "Little Big Horn
Heenan." The former president was called "flipp 'um back Ford"
in 1935. For the class of 2000, Mr. Delgado's nickname is "latino
unity I try to show Delgado."
Adele Pilette firstname.lastname@example.org
February 9, 2000
Hello, my name is Jackie Pilette and I'm one of the co-chairs
of the Native American Students Association at the University
of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I apologize for sending out a mass email
like this but I think it's important for native folks across the
country and in other schools to know what is going on here.
Right now, a student coalition has taken over the tower of the
Student Union, a place that is exclusively provided by UofM for
the secret societies, namely that of Michigamua - a service fraternity
that is blatantly racist towards native people.
I've been up there and I've seen the environment that they surround
themselves in and it makes me sick - it especially makes me ill
to think that one of the Presidents of the United States at one
time (Ford), and well as many other highly respected people (Angell,
Yost, Schembeckler, etc.) have taken part in the activities. The
pictures speak for themselves - they say they are not carrying
on these activities any longer, but the dated pictures clearly
show that this is not the case. They are crude and racist appropriations
of Native American cultures - there is no other way to describe
They have pictures of a guy smoking a wooden pipe with one hand,
with deciorated beads and leather strips, while holding a beer
inthe other hand - from 1996. There are statues and a "Red Sambo"
figurine, headdresses, the list goes on...And yet, in 1989 they
signed an agreement that said that "Michigamua does hereby eliminate
all reference to Native American culture and pseudo-culture and
extensions and parodies thereof, with the one exception being
the name, Michigamua, for now and forever."
They have not eliminated the references or the practices - they
have just kept them behind closed doors. The fact that the University
subsidizes this group and has provided them a space at OUR Student
Union solely for them to utilize and where they continue these
practices is absolutely wrong.
The Student of Color Coalition is working towards three major
goals that the University mu The University chooses to sever all associations/ties with
all Tower Societies, especially Michigamua
That the University no longer gives exclusive provision of
space to the Tower Societies
That members of the group are able to leave with all Native American
artifacts found in the Michigamua headquarters
st abide by in order for the students to leave the occupied area,
otherwise known historically as the "wigwam": <0L>
We want to get the word out and are asking for support in this matter.
Please forward this message along, call and write letters of support
to our administrators:
President Lee C. Bollinger
Business: (743) 764-6270, Fax: (734) 936-3529
Office of the President
2074 Fleming Administration Building
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1340
Lester P. Monts
Business: (734) 764-3982, Fax: (734) 764-4546
Office of the Provost for Academic Affairs
3084 Fleming Administration Building
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1340
Thank you for taking the time to read this and we hope to gain as
much support as we can.
School of Natural Resources, Environmental Policy and Behavior LSA,
99-00 Co-Chair, Native American Students Association
Organization: The University of Michigan - Flint
February 6, 2000
I have received a phone call from one of the students in the Native
American Student Organization at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor
At approximately 11:00 a.m. on Sunday (2-6-2000) members from the
Native American Student Organization, the Latino Student Organization,
and the Black Student Union entered the offices of a campus organization
These courageous students have occupied the office in a peaceful
and organized manner. They have a list of demands and are asking to
speak with UM-AA administrators starting with President Lee C. Bollinger
who heads the legal team fighting to retain Affirmative Action at
UM-AA Native American students have, for nearly twenty years, sought
to have MICHIGAMUA rid themselves of their "wahoo practices and bigotry."
Half-hearted concessions were made, on and off throughout the years
to pacify (read: make them go away quietly) the Native American students.
Instead of "woo woo woo'ing" in public the MICHIGAMUA took their bigoted
behaviors behind closed doors.
The students currently holding the MICHIGAMUA offices are carefully
cataloging the Native/North American items they locate. Examples of
what they have found: drum skins, pipes, cradleboards, etc.
The group is in good shape and are led by respected American Indian
students... among them Joe Reilly from Tree Town Drum.
This group has taken a peaceful approach to righting a wrong that
has existed for about 100 years. They deserve support. I hope to speak
with the students again on Friday and if their demands have not been
met, and if they still occupy the buildings then perhaps all of us
could meet in Ann Arbor to picket the building.
Lee C. Bolinger, President, University of Michigan
It is my understanding that an article about this issue appeared in
Monday's issue of the Detroit Free Press.
President's House, 915 South University
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
or you can call his office at 1-734-764-6270.
This is a brief
history of MICHIGAUMA that was written in 1996.
MICHIGAMUA is one of the oldest and strongest of UM honorary societies.
It has existed since the beginning of the 1900s. The Tappan Oak, a
large oak tree stands outside the Graduate Library and is one of the
most "sacred symbols" of MICHIGAMUA. For man years the members of
MICHIGAMUA initiated its members with sacred items stolen from North
American Indian tribes. The sacred items were then used in bastardized
rites initiating new members into the MICHIGAMUA tribe. Initiates
were painted red as they were picked from the "land of the paleface."
MICHIGAMUA members have long prided themselves on "preserving the
culture of others without abusing the culture."
Since the group's inception, the tomahawk has been a staple symbol,
and a wooden version exists (as of 1996) next to the Tappan Oak...embedded
in a stone circle.
MICHIGAMUA resides on the 7th floor of the Student Union since 1931
after the University Board of Regents voted to give "the tribe of
Michigamua" the top tower room free of rent. MICHIGAMUA members devised
the concept of the Union and were instrumental in funding its construction.
MICHIGAMUA SQUARE, just outside of the Fleming Administration Building,
was built in the group's honor.
Organization: The University of Michigan - Flint
February 11, 2000
There are no formal rallies planned. We will look into forming something
but nothing is planned for right now.
Yes, anyone from the Native American community that wants to tour
the tower is welcome to.
Also, please let people know that they should email/call the following
U-M administrators to protest Michigamua and to show support for the
Students of Color Coalition:
February 8, 2000
Day 5, occupation of the Michigamua wigwam and the Tower of the Michigan
Union, University of Michigan
During the 60+ hour occupation of the Tower of the Michigan Union,
the Student of Color Coalition has uncovered evidence believed to
have existed within the organization of Michigamua for decades. For
as long as Native Americans have been on this campus, we have opposed
the existence of this racially-charged organization. In seeking resolution
of this issue, the Native American Student Association and the Native
American community initiated an ongoing dialogue which resulted in
the signing of a legal agreement on November 1, 1989. The agreement,
signed by representatives of Michigamua and the Michigamua "Old Wolves"
(Alumni) Council, the Minority Affairs Commission, a Native American
student, and the Office of the Vice President for Student Services
states: Michigamua does hereby eliminate all reference to Native American
culture and pseudo-culture and extensions and parodies thereof, with
the one exception being the name, Michigamua, for now and forever.
IT is unfortunate that University administration has never conducted
a thorough investigation of this organization and their current practices
prior to this occupation. Despite demands submitted to administration,
including President Lee Bollinger, in April 1999 outlining Native
American concerns with Michigamua, administration has chosen to turn
a blind eye to the racism perpetuated by this organization. On February
6, 2000, eight UofM students uncovered the truth: Michigamua continues
its bastardization of Native American culture through the use of images,
misrepresentations, and culturally significant objects. On February
8, 2000 President Lee Bollinger, Provost Nancy Cantor, Associate Provost
Lester Monts, and Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Royster
Harper met with us in the Michigamua "wigwam" at which time we submitted
the following demands regarding Michigamua. The aforementioned administration
has taken these demands and will "consider them through discussion."
We will not leave this space until administrators agree to the following:
- Recognition of the legal and moral responsibility of the University
of Michigan to sever all affiliation with and subsidy of the Tower
Societies, primarily the secret society Michigamua, which continues
its offensive and culturally destructive appropriation of Native
- That University support of the Tower Societies: Michigamua, Phoenix/Adara,
and the Vulcans, through exclusive provision of space in the tower
of the Michigan Union be eliminated immediately, and that the space
be transformed and made available to all students as a cultural
- That possession of all images, objects, and representations of
Native American culture and psuedo- culture found within the seventh
floor of the Michigan Union be transferred to the University of
Michigan Native American community for proper repatriation.
The public has been invited into the tower to see these things for
themselves and to make their own judgements. We ask for your support
in the form of prayer, contact with administration, monetary and food
donations, as well as contact with media and other publicity resources.
Joe Reilly Native American Student Association Student of Color Coalition