On Friday, the entire student body received an email asking for Colorado College to stand in solidarity with Native American students after they were the targets of a series of hurtful and divisive Yik Yak comments.
Junior Emily Lucas, co-chair of the Native American Student Union (NASU), said, “Native Students have been getting racist comments all year. It tends to go less noticed than racist comments against other minority groups, because we are considered to be a smaller student population.”
Every year at CC, a white tipi is put up on the Worner quad for Native American Heritage month. Students can participate in events revolving around the tipi, like the powwow that happened last Sunday. “Every time we put [the tipi] up, we run into problems,” Lucas said. “People drink, smoke, have sex, and urinate in there. It is disrespectful of the space. Someone made a post on Yik Yak, on behalf of Native students, asking to respect the space.”
Lucas continued, “In response, there were multiple hateful comments, including one referring to fat, alcohol redsk**ns. I am sick of having this happen to Native students on campus and having people ignore it, so I took pictures of the comments and put them on Facebook.”
Junior Annika Kastetter, as part of her campaign for president of CCSGA, said, “I think it is imperative that CCSGA continues its strong support for Butler Center groups on campus and maintains its commitment to work collaboratively with such groups to foster the continuation of discussion and outreach initiatives surrounding diversity and inclusion.”
As part of CC’s efforts towards diversity and inclusion, an email was sent out by Lucas, Jake Walden, Mohammad Mia, Amy Valencia, Paul Buckley, and Jill Tiefenthaler. The email recognized the cultural and historical significance of the tipi.
Lucas said, “For the plains tribes, tipis were what they used for homes and also other tribes will use them for ceremonies. It’s a sacred space. There is a greater connection to your home space then there is in modern culture. The tipi is circular because circles are sacred in most indigenous traditions. When we put up the tipi, the door is facing east towards the rising sun. Each part of the tipi, in the way it’s set up and its existence, is symbolic.”
The email also asked for students to gather at the tipi on Monday, April 4, to show support for indigenous students, faculty, and staff.
Lucas said, “I was really surprised and grateful with both the response of the administration and student body. The day the Yik Yak comments were posted, President Tiefenthaler called me into her office for an emergency meeting and asked what she could do to help, and arranged to speak at the event on Monday. Members of the administration sent emails expressing support. We had 30 or more shares of the post I made about the comments.”
Lucas continued, “There was a lot of outreach by the student body. I was really surprised by how many people showed up yesterday to show solidarity. A lot of times people don’t realize we exist, which can be very difficult. We were worried it was just going to be NASU students there, but so many people showed up and offered to help. I was overwhelmed, but in a good way, by the support.”
Kastetter said, “While the statements targeted a particular group, the entire Colorado College community is negatively affected by discrimination and hate. As a student body and as an organization, we must do everything in our power to combat the presence of hate on our campus and to set a strong precedent of equity, inclusion, and empowerment.”
Kastetter hopes to lead CCSGA in working hard to promote diversity in leadership positions on campus. “CCSGA will work to create an additional position for a Butler Center heads of state representative within CCSGA to ensure that students feel equally represented and heard,” said Kastetter.
Lucas said, “We have NASU meetings at Thursday at 12:15 in the Southwest Studies house. They are open to everyone. People should be willing to speak up and stand by us when we are having an issue and recognize that we are here and exist. Come to our events. Be more willing to speak up if you see someone wearing a racist costume or issues like the DC football team name.”
She continued, “Flint Michigan is a horrible thing, but those water quality levels have been present on certain reservations like Navajo Nation for the past 30 years. However, no one takes notice because it’s Native Americans. People would prefer to think we’re extinct then try to deal with the history of it.”
Lucas acknowledged both the good aspects and the controversial nature of Yik Yak as a social media platform. “Yik Yak can be fun,” Lucas said. “It’s helpful for knowing about different events happening on campus. It is also a space for cowards to express the opinions they would never dare say to someone’s face. If I knew who had posted those Yik Yaks, I wouldn’t want them expelled. I would just want them to have to see us face-to-face.”