A few days ago, I saw a picture of a letter crafted by the University of Oregon sent out by Dr. Robin Holmes, vice president of Student Affairs, and Dr. Yvette Alex-Assensoh, vice president of “Equity and Inclusion,” on social media. Many of my marginalized peers were celebrating the release of it. And some say this fabled letter is “better than nothing.”
Being the “critical thinker” that the colonial institution prides itself on teaching us to be (sarcasm), I immediately questioned this letter and its celebration. I had seen this before — it’s an old war tactic, evasion of accountability.
It happened to us when we were starving on reservations, displaced in this very land, waiting for supplies from “Indian agents” promised to us by treaty. Promises made in so called “international law” of supplies that never made it to us. Fake apologies, false hope, another broken treaty.
I know my history and relationship with the colonizer. I know they want me tranquil. I know they want me silenced. I know they want me to believe their lies.
I’m no fool; we come from too strong of lineage to be gullible and believe this plagiarized absurdity. Yes, plagiarized, word for word, straight from the University of Minnesota’s Katrice A. Albert, VP of office of Equity and Diversity, and Danita M. Brown Young, vice provost and dean of students.
The UO did not even take the time to show even the slightest amount of respect or regard to our communities affected by mockery, hate crimes and racism during this heightened time of cultural appropriation.
“Administration at a university that condemns plagiarizing has stolen another university’s letter about ‘respect’ while simultaneously defunding and shutting down student-run activism and organizing on campus,” a source, who wants to remain anonymous, tells me.
My source continues, “It’s also important to note the letter was never sent to the student body. Only the ASUO listserv seems to have received it, according to a UO instructor, which only has about 50 people maybe? Even if it had been a ‘real letter’ in the UO administration’s own words, many find it odd that a letter about ‘respect’ is coming from the very same people who have clearly done their best to make sure that students of color, economically disadvantaged and disabled folks, etc., are systematically more disenfranchised on this campus every single day.”
It’s clear where the funding and support goes. Athletics get upgrades every year. Multicultural, women’s center and student groups all remain in the dusty lower levels of the EMU.
As a dignified individual who has been taught the strength of my lineage, by my elders, I scoff at this insulting attempt to appear compassionate toward marginalized folks in our community. Let’s not be naive and convince ourselves that the same sexist, racist, oppressive, colonist institution that is responsible for the mockery and marginalization of our disenfranchised communities gives a damn about us. Let’s not play pretend and fool ourselves into believing “The University of Nike” can just cover up the fact that it is responsible for the economic, classist, sexist, privileged and racist divide that plagues our town, with a plagiarized letter.
It’s always this time of year when these colonist power structures love to evade the responsibility of their history of genocidal bloodbath and mockery of our heritage, unique cultural lineage and identities. I am aware that the UO has many “artifacts,” crafted by my ancestors from the “Oregon Territory,” that it has acquired by grave robbing and desecration. The “world’s oldest shoe”? Crafted by my ancestor from Fort Rock. The archeological world has deemed these “artifacts” to be worth thousands upon thousands of dollars. To us, of course, they are priceless.
I know the UO profits financially on the backs of my ancestors and our culture, so don’t take me for some fool when you release a letter to ask your students to make responsible costume choices that wasn’t even tailored especially for our community. Because this Indigenous woman has not forgotten our history here and we have a score to settle with the settler colonial government and all of its oppressive institutions for taking away our rights, poisoning our land, and sending out promises that have never had any positive results for the marginalized or oppressed. These fraudulent promises are only made to systematically silence us and break down the power of oppressed peoples.