'Pilgrims and Indians' Fraternity Party Sparks Controversy at Duke University, and Online


A "Pilgrims and Indians" party thrown by a Duke University fraternity on November 19 inspired a disgusted student to condemn it in the school newspaper. The invitation, as quoted in Nicole Daniels' Chronicle article "Pi Kapp party fuels anger," read:

“In 1621 some crazy pilgrims had a pretty brutal harvest. Word on the street was they didn’t have enough food for half the bros in Plymouth. Then some hot natives came along with some extra food.… On Saturday, the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi will be honoring that party spirit. There will be a cornucopia of treats in our modern-day teepee. Tap into your inner pocahotness, wear a few feathers and party like you don’t care if you survive the winter.”

Daniels wrote that she was upset at the theme of the party but attended in order to witness first hand just what it was all about. "It was very disheartening to find my own friends there, dressed in outfits that epitomized an insensitive caricature of Native Americans," she wrote. Further down, she asserted that "[t]his party was bigoted and racist, and such an event would never be tolerated if other races were involved. Would Duke students attend a 'master and slave' themed party where guests were invited to wear blackface? How about a party where students dress up like Nazis and Jews? Surely these events would trigger student objection and national media attention, and rightfully so. Yet 'Pilgrims and Indians' did not faze Duke University."

She concluded by stating "Everyone who attended this party should feel ashamed. We are students at a prestigious university, and we should know better."

Daniels' strong words have provoked strong reactions, both in support and opposition. The comments section on on the Chronicle website currently contains over 350 posts.

You'll also find robust—if not always thoughtful—comment threads on these sites:

Jezebel: "Duke Brodudes Invite ‘Pochahotness’ to Attend Pilgrims and Indians Themed Party"

Barstool Sports: "Duke Frat In Trouble With Native Americans For Throwing Pilgrims and Indians Party ... Wait What?"

Big Lead Sports: "Duke Fraternity Pi Kappa Phi Had a “Pilgrims and Indians” Party, and People* Got Very Angry"

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danettehunt's picture
Submitted by danettehunt on
I started to read the comments. After reading 6/7 of them, I realize no matter how much education one attempts to gain, there are some who will NEVER LEARN!

laylalocklear's picture
Submitted by laylalocklear on
Way to go, Indian Country Today! I'm so glad that this article was published on your website. It's a shame to know that this prestigious University is in my very own state, and the fact that the fraternity hosted a party such as this has begun to anger Native peoples all across Indian Country. We as Native people have had many hardships, as well as made many attributions to this great land, and it's sad to know that there are other folks out there that want to make a mockery of who we are, as well as make a mockery of the sacredness of our culture.

melody516's picture
Submitted by melody516 on