Tour incident inspires demands from Native American CSU students, gathers support

Nate Day

students standing in front of the administration building
CSU student activists stand in solidarity with Native American students in front of the Administration building following the recent campus tour incident. Erica LaFehr, a graduate student studying ethnic studies, recognizes that because President Tony Frank represents CSU through his words, his answer to the incident has been careful, but states that the issues around the incident are due to institutionalized racism and can’t simply be solved through putting lanyards on tour group members. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Several Native American students met with a communications representative from Colorado State University’s administration to discuss how to better support Native American students on campus on Wednesday afternoon.

Following an incident last week in which two prospective students of Native American heritage were questioned by police during a campus tour, several Native American students sent a letter to the administrative staff asking for stronger inclusion for Native American students.

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The letter included numerical statistics surrounding Native American students and personal testimonies from students and alumni.

During the meeting, a group of students and alumni gathered on the steps of the administration building to show their support for the students addressing administration.

We actually were listened to and weren’t questioned, which is a first for this community.” -Milena Castaneda, ASCSU Senator for Native American Cultural Center

“The University response to the situation, as usual, has been lacking,” said Haneen Badri, the Associated Students of Colorado State University senator for the Black African American Cultural Center. “It’s time for the University to stop hiding behind their silent practice of the University’s standards of inclusion and diversity, and take action and a stance.”

Badri, who was present to show support for her fellow students, was accompanied by the student organization Students Against White Supremacy, who brought various signs with them, bringing attention to past incidents involving racism against Native American students.

Erica LaFehr, a graduate student studying ethnic studies and a member of SAWS, was there as well.

“First off, it’s important to understand that CSU is a land-grant institution,” LaFehr said. “So it’s important for us to remind the administration that with the land-grant agreement comes a specific and unique trust responsibility.”

LaFehr also noted that “administration owes Native American faculty and staff a truly inclusive climate in which they feel supported.”

Just before students gathered to show support, a meeting was held with several members of the administration as well as faculty and staff members.

One such staff member was Tiffany Kelly, the assistant director of the Native American Cultural Center.

“I think [after the tour incident] students are hurt, and it had a big impact on the Native American community,” Kelly said. “It had an impact on the Native American community here and in Fort Collins and in Denver.”

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Kelly also noted that this is not the first time that Native Americans have had to demand support and inclusion, as CSU is a land-grant university. However, Kelly also said that Tony Frank was receptive to hearing their concerns and ideas.

Among the students that met with Frank’s communications representative was the NACC’s ASCSU Senator, Milena Castaneda.

“I feel like it was one of the better conversations we’ve had,” said Castaneda of the meeting. “We actually were listened to and weren’t questioned, which is a first for this community.”

Youngs holds a sign
CSU alumnus Lief Youngs stands with CSU student activists in front of the Administration building, holding a sign asking the administration what they’re going to do to challenge institutionalized racism. Although Youngs appreciates Tony Franks response to the recent campus tour incident, he states that the response was forced, and only happened because the mother spoke out about the incident. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Castaneda’s colleague, Griselda Landa-Posas, a senior in the wildlife and conservation biology department, felt that the meeting could have been a bit more impactful.

“It’d be great if we could talk with Tony Frank personally and actually sit down for an allocated amount of time,” Landa-Posas said. “I think that’s actually how we can move forward and have a better conversation.”

Landa-Posas noted, however, that she believed the meeting was productive overall.

“I’m not glad it happened,” noted Landa-Posas. “But I’m glad it brought a lot of attention.”

Castaneda was also hopeful for change at CSU regarding the inclusion and support of the Native American community, noting that “actions speak louder than words” when it comes to situations like this one.

Collegian reporter Nate Day can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @NateMDay.