In August, Mars Hill University Lacrosse Team Players hosted an off-campus party that was loosely themed as a “Cowboy and Nav-hoe’s” party. Though at first no students on the North Carolina school’s Lacrosse team would admit the blunder, former Native American Student Organization President Katlin Bradley has confirmed the allegations as the truth.
According to Bradley, she first learned of the party at her school’s dining hall. Though she did not have proof at first, three Men’s Lacrosse Team players admitted they had hosted the party and that they were sorry they made such an obvious mistake.
Bradley says she was surprised that of all the sports teams, the Lacrosse Players would hold such an event. “Lacrosse is a game with Mohawk origins that is similar to the Cherokee game they play in my tribe.” Bradley is an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee.
Additionally Madison Crowe – Miss Cherokee 2014 had learned of the “Cowboys and Nav-hoe’s” party because several students posted photographs on Instagram and anonymously insulted Native Americans on ‘Yik Yak.’
Here's one example of a tweet about the Kent State sweatshirt being sold by Urban Outfitters.
When Bradley posted she was offended by the Cowboy and Nav-hoes Party – Anonymous responses on Yik Yak included, “It’s pretty offensive when we see you all wearing the “white men” clothing too.” And “Stop having a pity party, Duh it’s okay. Grow Up. Stop Looking for pity.”
The party, and the comments on Yik Yak, took a hurtful toll said both Crowe and Bradley.
“I am very disappointed,” said Crowe. “MHU is close to the reservation border and Native students attend this school. To have a party like this truly hurts.”
MHU School officials such as Mike Thornhill from the Communications department and Alaysia Black Hackett, the Director of Multicultural Affairs say, they are taking the matter very seriously. Black Hackett says, ‘though the students are ignorant of the effects such a party could have, the school is using this as a teaching opportunity.”
Thornhill says after an investigation, the event was held off campus and unidentified students held the “Cowboy and Nav-hoe’s” party. He also says the term ‘Navaho’ was more likely about an incorrect spelling rather than a slur.
Bradley says the term ‘Nav-hoe’ was an outright and intentional slur, and that players of the Lacrosse team admitted they hosted the event and apologized to her in person. “No, No, No, the term Nav-hoe was intentional, because a lot of people that went to the party dressed in revealing and provocative clothing. They posted the pictures on instagram,” Bradley said.
Bradley does give the Lacrosse players credit for admitting their mistake and apologizing in person, though they did not admit it specifically in their apology letter. “The Lacrosse players in my class were very kind and understanding about it,” she said. “They were very apologetic and wrote a letter apologizing.”
In the letter, the author lists the Cowboy and Nav-hoe party as ‘said social gathering’ and does not name names. The author wrote the following to the Native American Student Association (NASA):
Please allow me to apologize for what has happened this past weekend on behalf of the Mars Hill students. The behavior of some Mars Hill students was immature, and lacked the consideration of NASA’s personal feelings. The student’s ignorance regarding the racial undertones of the actions that took place was not acceptable. It was a disruption in our co-existence.
We have learned that certain aspects of college life can be misunderstood. In the future, I have every intention of making sure there is no gray area and that our actions do not end up interpreted in an offensive way.
Screen Capture Courtesy Madison Crowe
We hope that we can move past this matter and both enjoy the scenic MHU campus.
Crowe and Bradley both agree that though they were hurt by the actions and remarks of the MHU students, the University staff and administration has stepped up in the defense of Native students as a whole.
“We held an event last semester about Native American stereotypes, but it was not well-attended,” Bradley said. “But the administration has made it clear that the Lacrosse Team as well as other student organizations will be mandated to attend the event we are going to have this semester.”