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NSSA decries cultural appropriation of racist fraternity party

April Hudson
News Editor
Dec 05, 2012

The Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity has issued an apology and cancelled a party titled “Western Bros and Nava-hoes,” following a flurry of angry responses from University of Alberta activists.

The party was originally design-ed as a fundraiser to be held at The Ranch Roadhouse. After receiving a message from an offended Edmonton blogger, The Ranch Roadhouse replied the name was intended to be a “fun play off words.” However, once the U of A Native Studies Students’ Association (NSSA) got wind of it, the DKEs decided to cancel the party.

Although the DKEs could not be reached for comment, Aboriginal Student Group President Gail Gallagher said fraternity president Peter Alexander contacted her to apologize.

“He gave a personal (apology) for any offence their group’s event may have caused and thanked us for bringing this to their attention,” Gallagher wrote on the NSSA’s Facebook page.

“The event is cancelled, there were no posters, and all tickets have been cancelled. In addition, their fraternity is undergoing cultural sensitivity training by one of their former alumni who is
Aboriginal.”

Students’ Union Native Studies councilor Quetzala Carson said she thinks more needs to be done to address the issue.

“Once you understand that there are over 500 missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada, you understand that these jokes, these sexual puns you can make with indigenous nations’ names, are completely inappropriate,” she said.

“I don’t think (the DKEs) intentionally wanted to be super racist … (but) they as individuals need to understand why what they did is so negative for the rest of the university community.”

Carson said the initial reaction from the NSSA after hearing about the event wasn’t angry, even though the U of A hosts Navajo students from New Mexico. She added this is a good example of why Native Studies exists — to inform Albertan and Canadian society about Aboriginal culture, and thus prevent such events from being acceptable.

“This is such a small thing, but it’s a big part of the way society functions,” she explained.

“I think there needs to be some serious circumstances for the students who decided to create this, because it’s straight-up hate. It’s like (saying), ‘What’s up, we’re having a party this weekend — get your blackface on!’ It’s like having a party and putting strips of tape out so people tape their eyes to be more slanted. It’s not acceptable, and it affects students at the University of Alberta directly.”

NSSA president Kirsten Lindquist released an official response to the party’s name on Nov. 29, which condemned the event as an appropriation and misuse of indigenous culture.

“The attitude surrounding this event represents the ignorance of Indigenous issues, peoples, and students on UAlberta campus, and unfortunately the Canadian public in general,” Lindquist wrote.

“Although the Ranch Roadhouse and the DKEs may claim ignorance regarding their actions with this event, they are now knowledgeable of the seriousness of embedded racism and cultural appropriation, and it is their responsibility to act accordingly with this information in the future.”

The DKE fraternity is not currently affiliated with the University of Alberta after receiving a five-year suspension in 2011.



Comments

Are there any female student bodies on campus? It’s surprising that there weren’t any females objecting to the use of the word “hoes” in an announcement like that.



Posted by Harley W. on Dec 05, 2012

Since being caught up in the media eye, its been interesting to see some of the public’s comments and reactions both negative and positive after the Gateway and CBC news coverage after I was interviewed. I need to respond to the first reader’s comments re: everyone needs to grow “thicker skin” in relation to the recent DKE’s “Western Bros and Nava-hoes” controversy. First off, obviously you are not Aboriginal. As an Aboriginal student, I cannot count the numerous times I have been told by non-Aboriginal students that “we need to get over it” or “we need to develop thicker skins” while discussing Aboriginal issues in class? See as an Aboriginal person, you don’t survive unless you have a well developed “thick skin”, in order to cope with the racism, discrimination and general public lack of knowledge of Aboriginal peoples’s issues in Canada. Yes, I agree with your point that the madness has to stop, non-Aboriginal people need to become more aware of Aboriginal issues and how something like cultural appropriation is detrimental and demeaning to a group. Sure the DKE fraternity may have thought it was a “cute name” for their event but I seriously doubt others will use such a name for any future events. Hopefully this incident has opened some minds and some eyes as how this can be offensive to Aboriginal peoples. It disgusts me as an Aboriginal woman to find this event advertised and will do my best to educate others who cant understand why this event’s name crosses the line, and is why I contacted the President of the fraternity to bring forward our concerns.
Folks can belittle and downplay the seriousness of this event all they want but that is just wrong. Thank you to Alana, at the Gateway for her well written editorial as well and helping to bring attention to this issue.

Gail Gallagher, President
Aboriginal Student Group (ASG)



Posted by Gail Gallagher on Dec 07, 2012

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