Dartmouth College was founded by Eleazer Wheelock in part as a missionary school for Indians. For years its athletic teams were known as the Indians, until Dartmouth banned the name, the symbol and the mascot in 1974. Now a few Dartmouth Native American students have undertaken a public relations campaign raising cries of racism over…well, that would be difficult to say. Joe Malchow has brilliantly followed the train of events unfolding according to the students’ script (beginning here).
On Monday President Wright weighed in with a message to all Dartmouth students, quoted in its entirety and discussed by Joe here. The contrast between President Wright’s message and Joe’s brief comments is not to President Wright’s advantage.
Certainly the highlight of this installment of Dartmouth’s Indian wars is athletic director Josie Harper’s apology for the inclusion of the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux in the upcoming hockey tournament at Dartmouth, and for all other travails ever suffered by Native Americans at Dartmouth. Ms. Harper seems to have been inspired by the apologies offered by Bill Clinton in days of old, for offenses he had not committed to those who had not suffered them. Thus spake Josie on behalf of the Pussycats in her letter to the editor of the student newspaper on Tuesday:
I am writing to strongly denounce the historical and recent affronts to the Native American community at Dartmouth and to offer the support of the athletics department in playing a leading role to combat racial, ethnic and sexist ignorance and intolerance on our campus.
At the same time, I must offer a sincere apology to the Native American community, and the Dartmouth community as a whole, for an event that will understandably offend and hurt people within our community. In late December, we will host a men’s ice hockey tournament that includes the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. UND is one of 14 colleges or universities that continue to maintain a Native American name and image to represent their athletic teams.
Let me state clearly that UND’s position is offensive and wrong. When we scheduled UND nearly two years ago to participate in our tournament, we did so without considering their team’s nickname and symbol. Perhaps we should have, but I deeply regret that we didn’t.
On Friday, as I was traveling on College business, a member of my staff met with the Native American Council to discuss our hockey tournament and to offer our apology for the pain that it will cause. In the days and weeks ahead, I will develop a specific and continuing plan to address issues of respect and tolerance within the athletic department as well as considering a policy for scheduling athletic contests against institutions that support offensive nicknames and symbols.
Zach Hafer is a 1999 Dartmouth alum, former member of the hockey team and supporter of Dartmouth athletics. He writes that he is not surprised “that the football team just capped another 2-8 season, given that the AD is spending her time meeting with ‘aggrieved’ students,’ ‘develop[ing] a specific and continuing plan to address issues of respect and tolerance within the athletic department,’ and writing letters of profuse apology.” Yesterday’s Manchester Union Leader devoted a good editorial to Josie’s letter to the editor. The editorial reports the response of a UND official:
Don Kojich, executive associate vice president for university relations at North Dakota, referred all questions to the state’s attorney general, but did say that he has never heard of another school publicly apologizing for playing the Fighting Sioux.
Dartmouth has now managed to distinguish itself on the national stage for its political correctness. Adjusted for degree of difficulty, this is an almost unbelievable accomplishment. Surely some kind of award is in order.
Before we leave the subject, I would like to point interested readers to Katherine Kersten’s November 12 Star Tribune column on UND’s Sioux mascot. It is the best I have read on the subject. And at his new blog yesterday, Jules Crittenden posted a thoughtful Thanksgiving Day essay that coincidentally bears on the larger issues present in the doings at Dartmouth. Crittenden’s essay concludes with this observation:
[V]ictimhood is a trap, every bit as vile and destructive as the trap of subjugating others that we now reject. They are traps that ensnare us in the terrible past. Whatever we might have come from, we are the survivors now, who hopefully have moved beyond that. And for that, today, we should be thankful.
Will somebody say “Amen”?