Our commitment to create a welcoming and belonging environment
Dear DU community members,
It is with deep and profound sadness that I write about an egregious act of vandalism this past Friday, April 15, that severely affected our Native and Indigenous community. The destructiveness violates our values and undermines our commitment to create a welcoming and belonging environment. I condemn this act in the strongest possible terms.
Our Native and Indigenous community members are understandably hurt and grieving. And we grieve with them.
On behalf of the entire University of Denver, I apologize to these students and the Native Student Alliance in particular, and to our broader Native and Indigenous community. Last Friday, members of our Native Student Alliance constructed a tipi on the green outside Anderson Academic Commons. The poles on which the tipi was constructed were left out overnight during which they were vandalized and broken by unknown individuals. I deeply regret that the University played a role in this loss by failing to ensure the tipi poles were collected for safekeeping that night.
This act of vandalism perpetuates a painful and needless trauma to these students and the entire Native and Indigenous community at DU. As our Native students, faculty, staff and alumni have shared directly with me and other members of leadership, tipi poles are cared for as spiritual beings and a direct extension of their culture, histories and families. These acts of destruction against their tipi and its sacred poles is an act of desecration on their very personhood and culture.
While it is impossible to undo the damage done, we will do everything within our power to ensure such an act is not repeated, and that the tipi and its poles have a safe and designated place to be stored and protected when not in use. Moreover, I and several of the University’s leaders will walk alongside our students as we begin the emotional and difficult ceremonial journey of obtaining new tipi poles so that we may better understand from a first-person perspective the scope and depth of this loss.
Since this incident, our Native American and Indigenous community members have shown incredible grace, courage and honesty despite their pain and understandable distrust. We continue to have much to learn from them, and I ask the entire community to commit to ensuring such a thoughtless act can never go unchallenged on our campus.
Finally, as we review all available campus video footage and move forward with our investigation of this act of destruction, I ask anyone in our campus community who has any information about what happened to the tipi poles on the night of April 15 into the morning of April 16, to please contact campus safety through firstname.lastname@example.org or anonymously through the Campus Safety reporting site: https://www.du.edu/campussafety/report-incident