Wooden teepee coming down at Santa Barbara City College
SANTA BARBARA—After a Monday afternoon meeting with American Indian students, Chumash tribal officials and representatives from the American Indian Movement – Southern California, Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) officials have agreed to dismantle the teepee that was installed on the community college’s West Campus last Wednesday.
“The structure is an interactive student art project created by student artists enrolled in an academic art course at SBCC. According to their proposal, the goal “is to create a comfortable and inviting environment that transcends the day-to-day life, in which creates a relaxing and healing experience for the SBCC student community,” stated Joan Galvan, public information officer, at Santa Barbara City College in an email to Native News Online on Monday, prior to the meeting.
Teepee – Art or Insult?
The teepee was built with the assistance of a licensed contractor. It is lined with pillows, blankets and rugs. It includes a shelf of blank books in which anyone could feel free to write their thoughts anonymously, according to Galvan.
The teepee was met with resistance from several American Indian students who attend the community college located northwest of Los Angeles.
“The acceptance of this ‘art piece’ is a mockery of my people. By allowing this its making it okay for anyone, anywhere to exploit my culture, tradition, and me for their benefit. With no consequences it allows more generations to continue this bad habit. Having our culture used for playtime and dress up places an image of a fairytale fantasy, which results in believing Natives cease to exist,” commented Laina Godinez (Mexica, Cherokee, Yaqui)
Laina Gondinez and Eric Heras fought to have teepee removed
“I think it’s very insensitive of the history that was done to Native Americans. I believe that SBCC faculty condones this type of behavior. We constantly have to live with disrespect. Since I was attending the ‘number one community college’ I would have the right to be free of stereotypes. This is an act of superiority for non-Native students and I will not and am not okay with it,” commented a Cherokee and Yaqui student who chose to remain anonymous.
Eric Heras (Apache) posted the following statement on his Facebook and Instagram accounts in response to the negative comments he received from fellow students for speaking up:
“I wish this could be considered an act of unintentional misunderstanding. When you use stereotypes and don’t consent from the people you are stealing culture from you are intentionally or unintentionally being disrespectful. putting your own twist does’nt make it ok either. The dominant culture’s portrayal of Natives has mislead everyone (Indigenous and Non-Indigenous) to believe the feathered war bonnet, stoic warrior on horseback riding through the desert killing innocent White “settlers” is who Native People are. Am I the same Indian messing up the White peoples fun? I have asked for guidance from my elders at Santa Barbara City College, tied for #1 city college in the nation, hoping to right this wrong. I have not been acknowledged by them yet. We can all just laugh it off or like my fellow student put it: ‘If it offends you keep it to yourself.’ But when do we become humans again? At a place of higher knowledge why would this be acceptable?
‘I’m just a human being trying to make it in a world that is very rapidly losing its understanding of being human.’ – John Trudell.”