Gabriel Nadales, Campus Reform, March 23, 2015
A wooden tepee built as a school project was taken down after Native American students at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) complained that it made a mockery out of their culture.
The project, made from reclaimed wood, was erected on SBCC’s campus on March 4, but Native American students complained on social media and to the administration that it was a form of cultural appropriation–a social theory in which a dominant culture adapts certain aspects of a different culture, creating the perception that the new culture is the authentic form.
“As a Native American, I’m appalled by the insensitiveness by this crude display,” Angel Solorzano wrote in a post on the college’s Facebook page. “A Teepee is something that belongs to Native American heritage. I do not condone this as something artistic, but a mockery of my culture.”
According to the Santa Barbara Independent, Eric Heras, a SBCC student, contacted the American Indian Movement (AIM) which in turn told the college’s administration to take the art down.
“The acceptance of this ‘art piece’ is a mockery of my people,” student Laina Godinez told Native News Online. “By allowing this its [sic] making it okay for anyone, anywhere to exploit my culture, tradition, and me for their benefit. With no consequences it allows more generations to continue this bad habit.”
Godinez and Heras, led the charge to have the art project removed. Ultimately, the art students agreed to take down the project.
After hearing word of the complaints, Lori Gaskin, Santa Barbara City College’s president, convened a meeting with art students and Native American representatives. According to the Independent, the Native American representatives alleged the college is originally a Native American burial ground.
Gaskin also sent a campus-wide e-mail apologizing to the Native American community but also defended the art students, claiming that they did not have negative intentions.
Santa Barbara City College will host a forum to discuss issues of cultural sensitivity on April 7, in the college’s Garvin Theatre.