UW students involved in interrupting a Native American ceremony - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UW students involved in interrupting a Native American ceremony apologize

Posted: Updated:
Site of the Native American ceremony in March Site of the Native American ceremony in March

MADISON (WKOW) -- The students who interrupted a Native American ceremony at UW-Madison are now apologizing.

On March 9, UW officials say someone disrupted a community healing circle outside of Dejope Hall with mock war cries.

On Wednesday, the students sent an apology via email to three specific residence halls. The message will also be sent to the 380 Native Americans who are part of the UW-Madison campus community.

UW officials say the email is part of the students' restorative justice process. This process is separate from the school's disciplinary process. However, it allows the students to directly apologize to those who were impacted by their actions and explain in their own words what happened. In this case, the restorative justice process had the students participate in four specific activities.

Larry Davis, UW-Madison's Associate Residence Life Director, was able to share with 27 News three of the four actions taken. One is the email which began its distribution Wednesday (27 News was able to acquire the e-mail sent to residents of Bradley Hall). The second had the students sit down and explain their actions to the staff members involved in March's Native American ceremony. This step also included the students apologizing to those staff members. The final step was a meeting with Native American Leaders and specifically the tribal leader who was interrupted by the students during the ceremony. Once again, the students apologized to those in that meeting.

During the meeting with the Native American leaders, Davis says the students told the leaders and specifically the individual they interrupted, how they are being punished by the school.

What follows is the complete text of the e-mail received by students at Bradley Hall:

To the campus community,

We are writing this letter as an apology for our actions on the night of March 9th. On that night there was a Native American ceremony at the fire circle outside of Dejope residence hall. The purpose of the ceremony was to provide healing for women who were victims of sexual assault. This healing was going to happen through conversation and prayer with a Ho-Chunk elder. On the night the incident occurred, we were unaware of the sacred ceremony being performed below, and through our own ignorance, we disrupted the Ho-Chunk elder while he was performing a prayer of healing. We did not, at the time, know what was happening at the fire circle or who was in attendance. This does not excuse our actions; however, we bring it up as an assurance to you students that this was not racially motivated or meant to exclude anyone from campus. We realize now that our actions have lowered a sense of security among some students, and are truly sorry for that.  We want all students, of all backgrounds to feel safe and welcome here at the University. 

To those that were hurt, we can only imagine how you must have felt and how our actions have affected you. We feel horrible knowing that we have caused so much pain to our fellow peers. We would first like to acknowledge how we hurt the women at the ceremony. They were there to receive healing for what had happened to them, and by our actions we re-exposed their wounds and added to their pain. Secondly, the Native American community was harmed by what we did as well. We disrespected and undermined their incredibly rich heritage and culture. Our actions had a widespread impact and affected many members of other communities as well.

Though we never intended for our actions to be hurtful, they were. We are terribly sorry for what we did. However, no amount of apologizing can fix the pain caused. We have been trying to right the wrong, and bring healing from this situation. We have started to educate ourselves and those around us about the Native American culture on campus. We have also taken up the responsibility to be an advocate for the Native American students on campus, we encourage all students to do the same. We thank you for taking the time to hear what we have to say about our actions. We know that we are not deserving of your forgiveness. However, we hope that the dialogue that is happening on campus can help us all move forward together as one campus community.

With our sincerest apologies,

Several of your classmates 

Powered by Frankly