Sept. 13 — The First Nations Student Association rallied together in front of Wescoe Hall on Jayhawk Boulevard to bring awareness to the University of Kansas (KU) that Indigenous students are here on campus and they are hurt by what was done to the artwork displayed outside the Spencer Museum of Art.
The incident occurred on September 4 at 11:08 PM. Four out of five pieces of the 2021 Common Work of Art installation by Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne and Arapaho) were vandalized. This act hurt many Indigenous and non-Indigenous students at KU and Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU). Currently, no arrests have been made. A statement by the KU Chancellor was made only after Indigenous students rallied. “Their silence shows that they weren’t there to support us, and that has hurt us as Jayhawks and as Indigenous people,” said Tweesna Rose Mills ( Eastern Shoshone-Yakama-Umatilla Nations), KU student in the Film and Media Studies Masters program and the Co-chair of the First Nations Student Association.
The rally was a way for those who were hurt by the incident or wanted to support their fellow students to gather, sing songs, and pray together. Rose Mills said, “I find it disturbing that someone could do that to another alumni… and act like nothing happened.” Many will view this gathering as a protest but that is not the case with what occurred today. Rose Mill said, “The difference between a protest and a rally is that when you protest, you fight against something. That’s not what we are doing. Yes, it is wrong, but that’s not what we are doing. With a rally, we are here for understanding. We want you to understand how we were hurt together as Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.” Asking questions is just the beginning of a relationship between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous students at the University of Kansas.
Steven Laravie Jr. (Ponca Tribe of Nebraska), a Senior at HINU said, “I wanted to come and see how our people were going to react to it and see how we were going to show the beauty of who we are through relationships,” and added, “If we can speak out into the community about that beauty of us, we doing our part. Sit down and share a meal. Get to know each other.”
There were many who attended the rally, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to show support for those who were hurt. “Yes what happened was bad but what comes from it is good. We gathered together and prayed with each other. Supported one another. That’s what this is for,” said Rose Mills.
Featured image courtesy of Laura Beth Helen Kingston, communications coordinator at KU