It didn't take long for students at the University of Southern California to criticize a teepee-like tent set up on campus Thursday as "culturally inappropriate."
Sambazon, an açai berry-based food company, co-sponsored an environmental event called “Purple for the Planet" at McCarthy Quad where it set up the tent, USC's Undergraduate Student Government said, according to the Daily Trojan.
USG shut down an ESA event today at McCarthy Quad after some students raised concerns that a tent structure that re… https://t.co/8leO0Cmgc4— Daily Trojan (@Daily Trojan)1524803200.0
“The Environmental Student Assembly would like to sincerely apologize for the culturally inappropriate symbol that appeared on McCarthy Quad today,” the school's Undergraduate Student Government statement said, the paper noted. “What was meant to be an event celebrating eco-beauty and promoting biodiversity, co-sponsored with the acai-bowl company Sambazon, turned into something unrepresentative of our core values and our mission.”
What did the Native American Student Union president have to say?
Native American Student Union President Mato Standing Soldier called the structure culturally insensitive due to its similarity to a teepee, the Daily Trojan reported.
“I feel like there was some good dialogue happening and even if there wasn’t, it was still being shown that there is an issue embedded in USC’s culture revolving around indigenous populations [and] how they’re represented,” he added to the paper. “I think there is a small population at USC, and people are forgetting about our roles and our voices and how we choose to be represented.”
How did another student who saw the teepee-like structure react?
Sophomore Julian Wolff told the Daily Trojan he decided to confront those at the tent.
“I told them, ‘This is a cultural image and a cultural symbol of Native people, and I don’t appreciate that your company is using this image for profit,’” Wolff added to the paper.
He also wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post that “when I approached the [event] organizers I was laughed at for being concerned and upset. This cultural image/display is not up for capitalist greedy grabs!!!! University of Southern California students, faculty and administrators should be ashamed that this culturally insensitive display is on our campus!!!!” the Daily Trojan said.
Wolff also told the Daily Trojan he filed a bias report with USC and spoke to a student government official about the tent.
What else did the Undergraduate Student Government say?
The USG told the paper that the tent wasn't approved by the event administration.
“Once the construction of the structure was completed, we immediately recognized its detriment to our student body as being appropriative of Native American and indigenous cultures,” the USG statement noted, the Daily Trojan said. “As representatives of student voices, this was not tolerable by any means.”
The USG said it asked Sambazon to take down the tent and shut down the event soon after the teepee-like structure was set up, the paper reported.
What else did Standing Soldier say?
“You need to make sure that things like this don’t happen,” Standing Soldier told the Daily Trojan in response to the USG statement. “It puts a sour taste in the mouths of all indigenous members of USC, but also the large indigenous community in L.A. We pride ourselves in being an inclusive community, but when things like this happen, when there is just a lack of accountability, I think that’s just really detrimental.”
The paper said Sambazon didn't immediately respond to its requests for comment.
Just in case you're interested...
Here's a National Geographic clip of members of the Lakota Tribe demonstrating how to build a teepee:
(H/T: The College Fix)