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A letter from the Otto Bremer Foundation to a high-ranking UND official is not drawing praise from the president of the university. The Oct. 2, 2000 letter written by Elsa Vega-Perez, the foundation's program director was sent to Carl Fox, UND director of research and program development. Vega-Perez acknowledges the foundation's awarding of an $80,000 grant to fund a Native American program on campus, but it also criticizes the university for its "continued use of a mascot that disparages Native Americans."
The letter states, "We find it ironic and unfortunate that a public higher education institution that pretends to serve all North Dakota citizens continues this racist practice that ignores the human rights and dignity of American Indians." Because of the continued use of the "mascot," the foundation is considering a suspension of grants to the university until the university demonstrates its respect to Native Americans.
Fox said he doesn't have an opinion about the sharp criticism, but UND President Charles Kupchella said he's upset with the foundation, which has given the university about $1.24 million in the past five years. "The foundation can express any opinion that it wants, but I was a bit miffed," Kupchella said in a brief telephone interview.
The new $80,000 grant supports a program that will define health and health-seeking behavior of Native Americans with mental illnesses. It's the first grant provided to UND from the foundation since at least June. Fox, also the dean of the UND Graduate School, said the Bremer Foundation isn't threatening to withhold future funding; it's only considering a suspension.
Grand Forks Herald,
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