I am writing this letter, on behalf of NATIONS, to address some of the misconceptions brought forward by the editorial on Oct. 7. The Northern Star belittled our attempt to change the names of the Blackhawk and Pow Wow cafeterias. The Star claimed that our reasons for urging an examination of these names which we feel are offensive to Native Americans are “simply preposterous.”

To begin with, there can be no comparison made between the naming of the Leslie Holmes Student Center or Martin Luther King Jr. Commons and the Blackhawk and Pow Wow cafeterias. Both the student center and the commons are learning centers for this campus. They both promote and host educational activities and events. This is not the case with the Pow Wow and Blackhawk cafeterias; their sole function is to make money from the sale of food.

Why was this university compelled to honor Blackhawk? Blackhawk and his people were considered adversaries of the U.S. government and white settlers. The government wished to remove these Native Americans from their land, in order to open up territory for expansion. Blackhawk led his people in resistance against this removal and consequently suffered the brunt of U.S. military force. Am I to understand that we realize that the U.S. government’s treatment of Native Americans was deplorable and that by “honoring” their people today we are in a way apologizing for this country’s past atrocities? Let me make clear to those of you who do not understand—Native Americans do not want your apologies. We also do not accept the claim that these names are in any way meant to “honor.”

Secondly, I would like to explain what a pow wow means to Native Americans. To some, the ceremonies and other events of a pow wow may appear to be only a form of entertainment with colorful regalia, drumming, singing and dancing. A pow wow is really more important than that. It is a re-enactment of certain spiritual and symbolic aspects of Native American humanity. How can people who know nothing of the culture and traditions of Native American people, as evident by the editorial board’s use of a Eurocentric dictionary in defining a pow wow, justify the dismissal of our claims to its offensiveness?

The editorial board claims that by addressing the names of these cafeterias, our organization is “alienating college students from Native American culture.” Perhaps I should clarify this point for the editorial board. NATIONS does not feel that it is alienating anyone, quite the opposite. What we are attempting to do is educate and make people aware of Native American culture by showing them why these names are offensive.

Lastly, I feel it is important to address the claims that our organization should focus on “real problems” facing Native Americans today, “instead of worrying about inoffensive namesakes.” How can a people’s issues continue to be exploited and treated with disrespect and ignorance? Why did the Star portray a Native American the way it did in the cartoon adjoining the editorial? The answer is that white America does not want to know about or even recognize the modern day Native American. The only thing this accomplished was to dehumanize and stereotype Native Americans. If Native Americans continue to be portrayed as a people and culture of the past, instead of a real people with very real concerns, these concerns will go unnoticed.

John Stensland