University student occupations
to stop cultural disrespect, 2000


2 arrested at Kent Creek. Activists mobilize, July 12, 2000

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 (773)862-8653.

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: or

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 on Montague.

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 barricades.

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 mounds.

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: or

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 University

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.

(Jon Lurie)

St. Cloud police raid on Native Studies students, MN May 2000

May 9, 2000
SCSU and Dr. Nancy Harles

LINK to updates: SCSU: A Tradition of Racism and Hate Crime
CONTACT: Rob Callahan
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:

"Sit-In Information"
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 Services Building.

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 sort.

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 voice mail: (320)203-1075
see for details

(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. (see website)

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 ( 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 -
media contact: Rob Callahan, 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 at

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
Acting Coordinator, AIM-SCSU

U of Mich. students occupy anti-Indian secret society Feb. 2000

Website supporting the Michigan takeover - pictures, names... secret society

U-M students 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 and artifacts.

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.

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 for safekeeping.

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.

Statement from Joseph Reilly
February 27, 2000

Response to 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 behaviors.

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

Report from the tower

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.

Creation Story

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 position.

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 for war:


Rally Round

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
Rally round, ding ding
Whoop and raise the great scalp lock
Rally round, ding ding
Cut�um off with tomahawk
Rally round, ding ding

We are the Braves of Old Michigamua
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 brushed aside.

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 community.

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 Turtle Island.

Sit-in continues 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 society's office.

"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.

A Statement 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 continues today.

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 Michigamua:

  • 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 diversity.
  • 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.
To the University Administration:
  • 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.

Lee Bollinger, President,

Royster Harper,
interium VP Student Affairs,

Nancy Cantor, Provost, 734-764-9292

Lester Monts
Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, 734-764-3982

Frank Cianciola
interium Dean of Students, 734-764-7420

MVTO Andrew

Associated Press Writer
Feb. 14

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.''

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 campus.

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, Judi Risk.

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 from Chicago.

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 reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.

February 14, 2000

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 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 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 mean."

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."

Catherine Davids

    Flint, Michigan

Michigan Students Protest Campus Club's Indian Relics

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 Court.

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 1901.

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 space.

"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 said.

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."

From: Jacqueline Adele Pilette
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 it.

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
st abide by in order for the students to leave the occupied area, otherwise known historically as the "wigwam": <0L>

  • 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

    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.

    Jackie Pilette
    School of Natural Resources, Environmental Policy and Behavior LSA, Francophone Studies
    99-00 Co-Chair, Native American Students Association
    Email: Telephone: 622-9389

    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 campus).

    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 called MICHIGAMUA.

    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 the campus.

    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.

    Please write:

      Lee C. Bolinger, President, University of Michigan
      President's House, 915 South University
      Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
      or you can call his office at 1-734-764-6270.
    It is my understanding that an article about this issue appeared in Monday's issue of the Detroit Free Press.

    Catherine Davids
    Flint, Michigan

    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.

    From: "CATHERINE DAVIDS" Organization: The University of Michigan - Flint
    February 11, 2000

    Hello Catherine,

    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:

    1. 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 American culture.
    2. 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 study lounge.
    3. 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.

    Chi Miigwech,

      Joe Reilly Native American Student Association Student of Color Coalition