Harvard Sigma Chi Update: They’ve Apologized

In Apology, Conquistabros and Navajos, Harvard College, Sigma Chi by Adrienne K.5 Comments

AK note: Repost from the Harvard Crimson. Thoughts on the apology?

As The Crimson reported two weeks ago, a Sigma Chi party, which was billed as “Conquistabros and Navajos” received some criticism from some students on campus. Students were encouraged to dress up “as anything related to exploration in America, e.g. Columbus, pilgrims, conquistadors, Native Americans and cowboys/girls” for the party which took place over the Columbus Day weekend.
While initial negative reactions to the festivities were at first limited to students on campus, it has now sparked some outrage outside of the Harvard community.

Adrienne K., a Cherokee graduate student in the Boston area, posted an e-mail signed “The Members of Sigma Chi” on her blog Native Appropriations.

“The brothers of Sigma Chi invite you to our Columbus Day party this Friday: Conquistabros and Navajos. Start off the long weekend right with one of our best parties of the year. The theme is lighthearted and flexible,” the e-mail reads in part.

The claim that “the theme is lighthearted” seems to have struck a nerve with Adrienne K. “First of all, lighthearted?! You’re calling the genocide of millions of Native peoples lighthearted? What if we re-wrote their invitation…to a new party called ‘Jew-bros and Nazi-hos’?” she wrote.
Another blog also criticized the party’s theme.

“All in all, it seems like a stupid idea, even if we don’t know the details. If we did know the details, I’m sure it would seem much worse,” commented Newspaper Rock, a blog “where Native America meets pop culture.”

Sigma Chi has issued a formal apology, calling the theme “insensitive” and an “error of judgment.” The fraternity has pledged to donate the proceeds from their annual food drive to the Native American Heritage Association “to help rectify, in a small way, the ongoing pervasive deprivation and hunger on our nation’s reservations.”

Here’s Sigma Chi’s full apology, addressed to members of the Harvard community:
“We would like to apologize for the theme of the party that we recently held. It was insensitive and hurtful, especially for the Native American members of our community. We are deeply sorry for the offense our actions have caused.

As a group that strives to be inclusive, and embraces members of numerous ethnic backgrounds and nationalities, including Native Americans, we recognize that this was a serious error of judgment on our part, and we expect better of ourselves. We have taken steps to increase oversight over future chapter activities to prevent offensive mistakes like this one. You have our promise that we will not allow it to happen again.

The chapter has decided to donate the proceeds from our annual food drive to the Native American Heritage Association to help rectify, in a small way, the ongoing pervasive deprivation and hunger on our nation’s reservations.  Again, we are deeply sorry for the lack of judgment.
The Members of Sigma Chi at Harvard”

 I’d like to think this was done out of the goodness of their hearts, but I did fire off some angry emails to the National Chapter of Sigma Chi, as well as the President of the Harvard Chapter, and a few other Harvard administrators…but I’m still glad they apologized.

  • I’m at least glad they acknowledge that their actions were offensive, rather than the creepy “we apologize if we offended anyone” type of apology thtat occurs so often.

  • What I find interesting is that the apology from the fraternity was (in my eyes) light-years better than the tone of the article about the whole situation.

    I mean, what the fuck is this “it seems to have struck a nerve”? That’s just like saying “this totally overly sensitive person said something” No! Say instead: “criticism included: ‘First of all, lighthearted?! You’re calling the genocide of millions of Native peoples lighthearted?…'” Because you know what, that’s what it was, not a “struck nerve” but a legitimate criticism.

    At least the frat acknowledged that it was a stupid idea and that they have to do more than just say “oopsies” to make it better.

  • First of all Adrienne, thanks for speaking up and speaking out.

    Secondly, I agree with @TheDeviantE on the insulting tone of the piece and appreciate the re-wording suggested.

    And finally – I can’t speak to the sincerity of anyone involved issuing the apology, but this was a good one. We need more of those.

  • B

    Just seconding (thirding?) what dicey and Deviant said.

  • That’s the thing isn’t it, people have no clue as to how insulting those “innocent” portrayals are. Imagine a life time of insults, overt and subtle messages that you are worthless. Legislation applied to take away everything that is relevant to your family, your community, your whole essence. You make think it is an over reaction on the author’s part. In reality it is part of a battle, a battle to keep who you are alive, that has been raging for centuries.