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OU Undergraduate Student Congress hears student concern about summer camps' recruitment, involvement in Native American cultural appropriation

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SGA Meeting

Student representatives at the Student Government Association meeting Oct. 1, 2019.

The Undergraduate Student Congress heard a student concern involving two summer camps actively recruiting OU students as counselors, among other things, at its Oct. 8 meeting. 

In the meeting, representative Taylor Broadbent said Camp War Eagle and Kanakuk Kamps have been involved in the appropriation of Native American culture, according to the American Indian Student Association.

Earlier in the meeting, Logan Pelton, a representative from Camp War Eagle, had encouraged congress members to apply to work for the camp and invite their friends to do the same. 

Broadbent said according to an American Indian Student Association group chat, both camps separate campers into “tribes” based on the color of their lanyards and hold “tribal wars.” She said Camp War Eagle also regularly has their campers engage in “land run races,” simulating an event Broadbent said is offensive to Native Americans. 

“We call our games ‘competitions,’ not ‘wars,’ and we don’t do so-called ‘land runs’ ... that’s not something that Camp War Eagle does,” Pelton said.  

Broadbent said both camps also split their campers into groups with tribal names without the permission of those tribes, according to the group chat. Broadbent said even though the camps make use of those names, they do not teach campers about tribal history and are not influenced by tribal culture. 

“We actually do teach kids about the history of the local Native American tribes in the area. ... We do our best to respect the local tribes in the area,” Pelton said. 

Broadbent said she doesn’t think either camp should be represented on OU’s campus. 

“I think we should really evaluate employers that come to our school and ... make sure that they are not perpetuating racist stereotypes on our students,” she said. “I feel like if it was any other race but Native Americans, action would be taken immediately. But, unfortunately, the University of Oklahoma is not ready to accept that Native Americans are just as discriminated against as other races.” 

Broadbent also called on interim OU President Joseph Harroz to consult with the students more when allowing groups on campus. 

“I realize (Harroz) isn’t the say-all-do-all, but if he were to come out and say, ‘Hey, we need to be more careful and more vigilant about the people that are on our campus speaking to our students,’ that would be great,” Broadbent said. “I think we could all benefit from really learning about Native culture and the people that associate with it.”

The congress also passed acts allocating funding to student organizations and establishing a moment of silence before all Undergraduate Student Congress meetings. 

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