A report of vandalism at the sweat lodge grounds on the Haskell campus has been confirmed this afternoon by the President’s office. Information was received this morning that sometime between Sunday, January 25th and Monday, January 26th, the women’s sweat lodge received considerable damage with several ribs of the structure’s frame broken and tobacco bags lying on the ground. President, Venida Chenault visited the area with facilities staff this morning following the report to survey the damage.
“To me it’s a hate crime and this is the second incident we’ve had. Back in October, the Native American Church (NAC) reported symbols had been carved onto the grounds where they place their teepee. Both the sweat lodges and the teepee — people go there to pray. One of the things that we’ve really tried to do is ensure that all of the faiths, all of the beliefs and ways here are respected and the fact that NAC reported that desecration and the lodges have now been desecrated, it’s disappointing and it’s hurtful. This campus shouldn’t be the place where people that follow our ways have their places damaged. This is just not the kind of campus we want to be.”
Individuals that take care of the space where the lodges are located discovered the vandalism. Sweat lodges for both men and women occupy the space separately. No damage to the men’s lodge was observed.
Chenault said she will file an incident report on campus and had contacted the Lawrence Police Department to file a police report as well.
“Sometimes people don’t understand the significance of those kinds of sacred places. Sometimes it is ignorance of what these places represent for tribal people and for students that come from traditions in which this is how they pray,” said Chenault. “It’s a place of healing and a place of prayer. It shouldn’t be vandalized.”
One student knows first-hand the significance of the sweat lodge and the importance of the practice in her own tribal community. Jacey Lamar, Blackfeet shared her beliefs and what the sweat lodge means to her and her tribe.
“That’s the way I grew up. I grew up real traditional. I grew up knowing how to build a sweat and take care of the fire since I was 10 years old. That’s our way of life; that’s our religion. It’s our time to be with Creator, just like how someone would go to church,” said Lamar.
Lamar added her reaction to the lodge desecration. “It’s something that, how I was raised, we hold that ceremonial way in high regard. So, a person would almost feel violated. You have so much respect for everything and just knowing that someone desecrated that (space) it’s not going to be the same and it never will be the same knowing that there was such hateful and impure energies going on there. It can’t be a place of prayer anymore. Those energies and someone’s feelings were there and it’s not the same.”
Chenault also pointed out that not only was the women’s lodge targeted exclusively but the lodge themselves represent the womb and it is an attack on the female holy powers that are apart of traditional ways.
Representatives from NAC and those who are involved in the campus sweat lodge ceremonies were not available for comment at press time. Anyone who may have information about the incident is encouraged to contact the President’s office or the Lawrence Police Department.