Union Weekly apologizes for Pow Wow story
March 21, 2011
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The Union Weekly issued an apology yesterday for a highly criticized review of the 41st annual Pow Wow American Indian gathering, stating that it was “meant as an unflattering view of the event itself” and not “an assault on an entire culture.”
The article titled “Pow Wow Wow Yippee Yo Yippy Yay” was written by the publication’s campus editor, Noah Kelly, and published on March 14 in last week’s issue of the Cal State Long Beach student publication funded by Associated Students Inc.
The Union published several disapproving letters from the community, and apologies from Kelly and Editor-in-Chief Kevin O’Brien.
The American Indian Studies Program and American Indian Student Council hosted the Pow Wow on the weekend of March 12.
The article consisted of a short review in which Kelly made numerous observations about the event.
In his article, the Union editor said that the food vendors seemed to “unceremoniously” add “Indian” to any of the food they were selling; the vendors were “hocking their wares to anyone walking by” and it seemed to be a “large, Native American themed flea market.”
At one point in the article, he said, “The entire scene felt disingenuous and cheap.”
In a letter addressed to the CSULB administration, the American Indian Student Council “[demanded] that the university and Union Weekly officials condemn the ignorance and racism shown in the article.”
They also called Kelly’s article derogatory, racist and ignorant, stating it was clear that he had no real interest in learning about the event and calling the review biased against the American Indian community.
Kelly said he didn’t immediately notice the backlash from his article.
“I didn’t hear a response until Thursday when I woke up with all of the unread e-mails,” Kelly said. “When you write an article, it’s an automatic thought of ‘that’s what I do’ and I didn’t give it much self-reflection. It wasn’t until later that I realized its impact.”
President F. King Alexander responded to the article, saying CSULB does not “support the insensitivity nor the opinions” of the Union Weekly writer, but the writer is protected under the First Amendment.
Kelly said he received death threats in response to the article.
“It was certainly surprising that there were death threats, but we didn’t really take it under consideration,” Kelly said. “We were not concerned for our safety.”
According to James Suazo, the publicity coordinator for the American Indian Student Council, the AISC asked students, parents and community members to write letters to CSULB administration requesting an apology from the Union. Suazo expressed his disappointment in the remarks made in Kelly’s article. He said it made CSULB “look bad to the American Indian community.”
However, Kelly said he met with the American Indian Student Council on Sunday to read his apology and the group formally accepted.
CSULB has hosted the Pow Wow for more than 35 years. It is CSULB’s largest student-run event, attended by hundreds of Native Americans.