I was going to post the email that Geoff Larcom sent around about this, but then this morning, I see it’s been picked up by the mainstream media too. The best story comes from WXYZ channel 7 (Detroit’s ABC affiliate), “EMU investigating allegations of racism where off-campus students were dressed as Native Americans.”
The video is definitely worth watching. Basically, Nathan Phillips, who is described as a Native American man in his 60s who has lived in Ypsi for eight years, came across a loud party last weekend. Here’s a quote from this piece that explains what happened next.
When he approached closer, he saw about 30 to 40 students partying and noticed that about half of them were wearing “Redface” and sporting feathered headpieces.
Phillips asked the students what they were doing. They told him they were honoring Native Americans and told Phillips, “We’re the F-ing Hurons!” EMU’s nickname used to be the Hurons before the university changed it to the Eagles in the ‘90s.
Phillips responded, “This isn’t honoring us, this is racist. And as soon as I said ‘racist,’ it turned from honoring the Indians to, ‘Go back to the reservation, you F-ing Indian, get the F out of here.’”
In the scuffle, someone threw a beer can at Phillips.
The video also features Michelle Lietz, vice president of the Native American Student Organization at EMU (who is also a grad student in my department, by the way), and she said she and her organization worked all week to get EMU to investigate this. To quote again from the piece, “Lietz said, ‘It’s a great opportunity for them to finally come out and condemn this sort of behavior.'”
First off, this is obviously stupid and condemnable behavior, so I do hope EMU comes out with some kind of statement or action that is a little more “meaty” than “We’re going to look into this and get to the bottom of things.” Second though, since this happened off-campus, I’m not sure there’s much that EMU can do about it.
But third, isn’t really about time to put this “we’ll always be the Hurons!” nonsense to rest? Honestly, it’s been over 20 years now that EMU’s mascot switched to the Eagles. The “F-ing Hurons” involved in this incident weren’t even born yet.
And I think this is just another example of the mistake of not picking up the emu as a mascot, too. I have no evidence to support this claim of course, but I’m completely convinced (in my own head) that had we become the EMU Fighting Emus none of these “Always a Huron” incidents would have taken place because they wouldn’t make sense. I mean, sure, we were the Hurons, but how cool is it now that we’re the emus?!