Dartmouth College has been repeatedly roiled in recent weeks over the way some students are treating the very people the school was founded to help: American Indians.
More than 500 students, faculty and administrators rallied in support of the American Indian community on Wednesday, a day after The Dartmouth Review published on its front page a picture of an Indian warrior brandishing a scalp with the headline, “The Natives are Getting Restless!”
The Dartmouth Review, an independent conservative student newspaper, is not affiliated with the Ivy League college and has had a sometimes adversarial relationship with minority students.
Students said the paper’s latest issue, ridiculing Native American students’ complaints about a string of incidents seen as racist, was the trigger for the demonstration, held on the last day of classes before exams.
“The Review was more or less a tipping point,” 19-year-old sophomore Samuel Kohn said.
This fall, American Indian students have protested Homecoming T-shirts showing a Holy Cross knight performing a sex act on an American Indian caricature. The Review also has come under fire for distributing T-shirts emblazoned with the Dartmouth Indian, the college’s discontinued mascot.
There also have been accusations that fraternity pledges disrupted a Native American drumming circle on Columbus Day and that earlier this month, the crew team held a party with a “Cowboys and Indians” theme. Team captains later apologized.
The college also apologized for scheduling a December 29 hockey game against the University of North Dakota, whose mascot is the “Fighting Sioux.” The university is one of several schools whose use of American Indian imagery has been labeled “hostile and abusive” by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
An uncomfortable history
The various incidents have played out against an uncomfortable college history. Dartmouth, founded in 1769 as a school for American Indians, graduated fewer than 20 American Indians during its first 200 years, the same time its catalog of Indian mascots—featured on canes, sports uniforms, even songs and art depicting natives lapping rum—increased.
A renewed mission to recruit American Indian students in the past 30 years has given Dartmouth the largest indigenous student body in the Ivy League, about 160, or 3 percent.
Last week, the college’s Native American Council—composed mostly of faculty—placed a two-page ad in The Dartmouth, the college daily, demanding a community response to the recent incidents.
Wright apologized via a college-wide message last week and encouraged the community to build a more welcoming atmosphere for minority students.
The publication Tuesday of the Review, with its inflammatory cover art and several articles mocking American Indian students and the college, sparked the latest round of campus soul-searching.
In an interview after the rally, which he did not attend, Review Editor-in-Chief Daniel Linsalata, a senior, was unapologetic and a little surprised by the hubbub.
“They’re out for blood, so to speak,” he said of complaints by American Indian students.
In an editorial, Linsalata wrote: “While the onus may fall partly on the student body to facilitate an environment more hospitable to Indians, nothing can be done until the Indians themselves lay out measurable goals and steps for how this harmony can be achieved. Patronizing advertisements and excessive use of the race card are antithetical to this goal.”
At the rally, Kohn, a member of both the Crow tribe and of the student group Native Americans at Dartmouth, urged administrators to pursue disciplinary action against offenders.