The elite Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., is in the midst of a major meltdown because of flyers distributed on Columbus Day advertising American Indian-themed clothing.
Dartmouth’s sports teams were known as the Dartmouth Indians until 1974, commemorating the fact that its original purpose was for educating American Indians. But in 1974, the school’s board of trustees abolished the nickname, declaring it offensive and inconsistent with the goal of Indian education. Despite this, thousands of students and alumni have continued to use the old nickname and its associated logo, and the school’s independent conservative paper, The Dartmouth Review, has made no qualms about keeping the moniker alive.
On Monday night, flyers appeared across campus encouraging students to “Celebrate
Columbus Day Indigenous People’s Day ALL YEAR ROUND with Vintage Dartmouth Indian gear!”
“Native American and proud to be one? Hate political correctness? Love Dartmouth?” the flyer said. “Don’t let The System stop you from celebrating Indigenous People’s Day!” The online shop the flyer directs readers to has already been shut down after complaints were filed with Cafepress, its host.
One potential culprit for the flyer is The Dartmouth Review, as the paper’s website includes a similar store for buying all manner of Dartmouth Indian products. But so far, the paper has taken no responsibility for the stunt, meaning the actual perpetrator is still unknown.
The school has wasted no time in condemning the flyers in remarkably harsh terms. Student Carene Mekertichyan, head of the Dartmouth multiracial organization MOSAIC, complained that the flyer was a “very triggering image.” Another student, Bridget-Kate Sixkiller McNulty, said the flyers had made people “not feel safe on this campus,” despite being entirely non-violent in both their nature and imagery.
Dartmouth provost Carolyn Dever and dean Rebecca Biron sent a joint email saying the flyer was “cowardly and disrespectful.” The school’s Student Assembly went a step further, issuing a lengthy email calling the flyers a “premeditated act of racism” and demanding a “full inquiry.” The Assembly also announced that is was requesting that campus security provide special protection for the school’s Native American house to protect it from theoretical acts of violence or terrorism.
The school’s Greek Leadership Council (GLC), which governs the school’s fraternities, joined freakout Tuesday night, proposing that Indian symbol essentially be treated like the Nazi swastika.
“In response to this event, the GLC is proposing an amendment in which any house promoting or prominently displaying the Dartmouth Indian will be ineligible for funding, disassociated from the GLC, and fined. This would apply to any artwork, posters, pong tables, etc. in your houses,” the GLC’s email announced.
The extremely stern response to what is, in the end, a clothing advertisement may in part relate to Dartmouth’s desire to make up for another recent dust-up. Last month, the school came under fire from Indian students and alumni when the person tapped to run its Native American Program was accused of being a white person with no real Indian ties. (RELATED: Ivy League School Will No Longer Give Plum Job To Fake Indian)
As first noted by the website Dartblog, using a generic American Indian head as a mascot is common at many Indian schools, such as Marty Indian School in South Dakota and Sherman Indian School in California.
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