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Source: Grand Forks Herald, October 28, 1992
 

INDIANS COMPLAIN ABOUT PARADE NATIVE GROUP SAYS FRATERNITY FLOAT JEERED AND MADE RACIST COMMENTS DURING PARADE
Steve Schmidt, Herald Staff Writer

A group of American Indian students at UND may register a formal complaint today about what they consider inappropriate and degrading actions during the Homecoming Parade by other students on a fraternity float.

One student activist said it's further cause to drop the Sioux name.

Indians said they objected to the jeering use of the tomahawk chant and cheer, popularized by Atlanta Braves fans, by a group riding on the Sigma Alpha Epsilon float during the parade. They said, too, that some Indian women and children were targets of racist comments by people riding on a nearby fraternity and sorority float.

Indian student Muriel Stewart said she wasn't personally jeered, but felt that tomahawk chants right before the parade were out of line.

"I had just come back from the Fritz Auditorium and walked back to the parking lot where the rest of the floats were to wait for the Native American float. I don't know which fraternity it was, but they started doing the tomahawk chop and the little song that went with it. The other fellows were nudging at one of them to quit, but he wouldn't. ... We just ignored it."

Later, "the same fella started doing the the same thing, and all the others started." A nearby band struck up an Indian theme. Stewart said, "I'm sure if we weren't dressed up in our outfits, they wouldn't have started this ... kind of mocking us." She said she didn't object to the cheers so much as the derogatory way they seem to be used.

Joe McGillis, a student who took part in the UND Indian Association float, said he heard some women were told they should go "back to the powwow," or back to the reservation.

He said the comments came from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon float.

SAE President Jason Metz said Greeks on the float took part in the tomahawk chant. He and about 15 others from three Greek organizations were on the float. He said a UND woman asked them to stop, and all or most of them did. He said he knew of no one making derogatory remarks to those on the Indian float.

As of Tuesday, no complaints had been filed with the university student affairs office or its Greek life coordinator in the Memorial Union. However, McGillis said he and Michael Sauders, a law student and leader of Citizens Against Prejudice, plan to ask for formal action against the Greek community. They hoped to meet with Dean of Students Lillian Elsinga at noon today.

Saunders, who was not on the float but discussed the reported incidents with fellow Indian students, said, "This thing at the parade is a classic example of what native students go through."

Michelle Fox, a UND student in the parade, said that at some points, "People were pointing fingers and laughing at us." She said of the SAE float team. "They were singing some songs, like `Heya, heya, heya,' that stuff."

Saunders said he's drafting a letter to UND President Kendall Baker to move on the Sioux name question.

Herald reporter Tony Lone Fight contributed to this story.