Target of hate says he's staying at SDSU
Student Wants to be Role Model for his
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Dakota: Hepi Flute Player wasn't feeling well when he walked
into a bathroom at Brown Hall on the
South Dakota State University campus.
What was written on the side of a bathroom stall made him even
Someone had penned a hate message about his tribal ethnicity. They wrote his dorm room
number next to it, making it clear the words were meant for
him. They told him to “go back to the rez.”
“I was sick,” the 19-year-old sophomore from Iowa said. “It really did make me
father immediately reacted.
“He wanted me to leave,” Flute Player said. “I told him I
didn’t want to. I’ve got a lot of good friends here, white
friends. And I think college is really important.”
That’s reassuring to people such as professor
Chuck Woodard. Woodard has spent much of his career promoting
cross-cultural understanding and education at SDSU. He
this hate message is a reaction to the
good things his school has done to promote cultural
inclusion, including forming a
Studies program and
recruiting more Native
“Sometimes it’s hard for a racist to see progress in
cross-cultural understanding,” he said. “When something like
this happens, it’s an expression of frustration by someone
who doesn’t want to see anything change.”
the editorial pages of SDSU’s Collegian newspaper.
Non-native students condemned the hate
message, and the paper’s lead editorial branded it
“Thirty years ago, I think there was a different way of
reacting to things,” said J.R. LaPlante. ““Fortunately
today, there is a culture of dialogue and a culture of
conversation taking place. We’re very proud to be taking
part in that.
“If you look at how they have responded to this situation,
both the administration and students at SDSU, that’s all the
indication you need to see how far we’ve come. You can see that culture has taken root and has
gained traction and gained ground in our state.”
Rather than painting SDSU as a horrible place, it's accurate to say that this incident
is reason for encouragement, said Richard Meyers. Meyers, an Oglala
Sioux tribal member, is developing the American Indian
Studies program at the university.
“From what I’ve gathered, the most positive repercussion out
of this is this idea of, how does a person deal with
friction in a way that engages faculty and students and
leads to better understanding?” Meyers said. “When you start
crossing over into real engagement with one another, that’s
where you create real bridges.”
said he had no intention of leaving SDSU,
and he wasn’t aware of any other tribal students wanting to
depart, either. He intends to stay and become the first
college graduate in his family. He also wants to be a role
model for his younger siblings.
“I’m really comfortable in this school,” Flute Player said.
“This won’t change that. I like it here.”
SDSU administrators said those responsible for the
message could be charged with violating state
hate laws and suspended or expelled from school. University police
continue to investigate the incident.
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