'Nava-Hos' Frat Party Sparks Outrage


An off-campus fraternity party at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo has drawn sharp criticism for its theme of "Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos." 

According to Mustang News, Cal-Poly's student newspaper, the fraternity alleged to have been responsible for the event is Phi Sigma Kappa. Neighbors reported 17 to 100 guests, many of them young women dressed as sexualized Indian maidens. When Natives on the Cal-Poly faculty got wind of the incident, they brought it to the student affairs office.

The party will be discussed at a forum today, November 22, at Cal-Poly's Chumash Auditorium. 

Dr. Jennifer Rose Denetdale, Navajo, is an associate professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico and serves on the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission. Contacted by ICTMN, she released the following statement:

The theme “Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos” for a frat-sorority party by students at Cal Poly directly references Navajos, whose name for themselves is Diné, and parodies U.S.-Navajo colonial relations. In 1863, the Indian fighter Kit Carson received orders from James H. Carleton, governor and commander of New Mexico Territory, to destroy the Navajo people.  Kit Carson’s scorch and burn campaign against the Navajo people literally left the Navajo homeland burning as thousands of Navajo refugees, who were reduced to starvation and poverty, were herded into American forts and then forced to march to the Bosque Redondo reservation at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.  For four years over eight thousand Navajo prisoners of the U.S. lived under genocidal conditions. Many did not survive. The Navajo prisoners lived in ditches in the ground and had little material means to ward off the blistering winters of the plains or the scorching heat of the summers.  They were given inedible rations that were essentially starvation diets; many died from bouts of diseases and just sheer loneliness and broken hearts.  In addition to constantly being on guard for slave raiders who stole the women and children, the Navajo women and girls were subjected to sexual assaults and rapes by both the American soldiers and the slave raiders.  Gerald Thompson, author of The Army and the Navajo, indicates that the Indian agent at the Bosque Redondo dutifully reported that only two newborns had survived the first winter at the prison camp in 1863.

To invoke “Colonial Bros,” then, is to refer to one of the most darkest moments in  American history and certainly for the Navajo people, it is a reference to one of the most brutal, humiliating, and devastating experiences  under American colonialism. To refer to the scantily clad women who came as “Nava-Hos” is to not only diminish the Navajo people as whole, because the term connotes “whore” and “prostitute” and suggests that Navajo women were sexually available to the white soldiers; it says that  it is not possible to rape or sexually assault Navajo women, because they are inherently rapable.  “Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos” is also a slander on Navajo women who have survived rape and sexual assault that was a part of conquest. 

Native peoples, and in this particular case, the Diné, are constantly subjected to racism, discrimination and hate every day, and yet these racist and hateful antics of Cal-Poly students are condoned by the University.  Until we all speak up and condemn such language and behavior and hold the culprits responsible, there will be no justice.

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Alice Marie Hollow Horn's picture
Alice Marie Hol...
Submitted by Alice Marie Hol... on
Dr. Denetdale provides a brief history of some of the darkest days for the Diné people. She is correct in that there is no justice until people like the Cal-Poly fraternity are held accountable for their despicable actions. Indigenous women are not objects of ridicule for entertainment purposes, we are the backbone of our nations! This is not only offensive to the Diné but to Indigenous people everywhere.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I would like to say, as a Cal Poly student, that the University in no way condones this party or any other forms of racism and sexism. There is a recent history of tension between the University and the Greek system here because of a few fraternities and sororities that refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Debra Haaland's picture
Debra Haaland
Submitted by Debra Haaland on
It is unfortunate that such abject ignorance exists with respect to the history of our country. By the time a student gets to college he or she really should have a basic understanding of Native Americans and the awful history we have endured. As a country we seem to be failing our kids in basic curriculum. Additionally it makes me wonder of family and social values that have clearly evaded them. I feel so sad that Dr. Denetdale was forced to relive this dreadful past in responding to the students who were so very thoughtless.

Rick Rosio's picture
Rick Rosio
Submitted by Rick Rosio on
As a member of the Menominee Nation I will say the following.... foolish children of foolish parents..shame upon the administrators of this school for not suspending those involved..and maybe this institutionalized racism will end... until then all this is smoke and mirrors

chahta ohoyo's picture
chahta ohoyo
Submitted by chahta ohoyo on
what is there to say...this kind of behavior has continued for 500+ years because we are less than human

Dave Etsitty's picture
Dave Etsitty
Submitted by Dave Etsitty on
WTF! I lived and worked out there, late last year and early this year on solar project. I'm surprise to hear this. I don't like this because I'm a full Navajo.

Joan Himel's picture
Joan Himel
Submitted by Joan Himel on
I thought only the best and brightest got into Cal-Poly, this stunt exposes this myth and makes us wonder just how supremely ignorant these students are. If Cal-Poly does not take a stand against this type of blatant racism it should not be allowed to remain open!

andre's picture
Submitted by andre on
Sad to think of the thought process employed by these frat students. The old saying the fruit does not fall far from the tree comes to mind. Soon, there will be no moral fiber left. Andre Leonard,

Paula M. Nelson's picture
Paula M. Nelson
Submitted by Paula M. Nelson on
I am from the Eastern Cherokee Nation and write to you in solidarity with my Navaho sisters and brothers. I believe the lack of understanding and ignorance on America's history with the indigenous peoples is the fault of educational institutions and their "History Books". I feel as if this history is a bloody stain on "America's record of events regarding "Indian" affairs" and therefore it is never properly taught to them. We are a blurb in most textbooks and we are perceived as being non-existent, or human beings that do not matter. I think this is just what the government wants - to forget that they tried to extinguish our people, and when they couldn't do that - they tried to take the "Indian" out of us - that didn't work either - Funny how the US went to war against the Germans siting genocide is ungodly and unjust - but they themselves had already done the very same thing - over and over again. Education to avoid ignorance is key - Ignorance is not a derogatory term - it simply means - DO NOT KNOW! So TEACH TRUTH and avoid this kind of hurtful/cruel behavior.

Native Pueblo woman's picture
Native Pueblo woman
Submitted by Native Pueblo woman on
Shame on Cal Poly! Your sorority needs to be educated on Native history, racial discrimination, violence against women and respect. We hope appropriate actions are taken to rectify this embarrassing situation.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Sad. And to think. We don't hear one word of protest from any of our so called leaders, themselves clueless and voiceless to the history of this lands since mass slaver, rapist and mass murderer Columbus stumbled onto the shores of the Islands in the Caribbean. Why aren't we vocally demanding that Indigenous peoples history be taught in American school curriculums? Why aren't our leaders demanding that all state and federal government officials attend Indigenous People history courses for several days after taking office, so they at least, know the history of our peoples since syphilis afflicted Columbus stumbled and bumbled around here. I bet our leaders don't even know that the Pilgrims murdered the very same Indigenous people three years after the Indigenous people saved their mangy and scurvy butts.

Cromulent's picture
Submitted by Cromulent on
I agree; this party's theme is a disgrace. Our Founding Fathers were great men, not just a bunch of horned-up pervs.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
As a Cal Poly alumni, I would like to offer my apologies for the highly offensive and unacceptable behavior of students at my Alma mater. Unfortunately, my school has a long and embarrassing history with racism. When I attended, one of the fraternities would host a "N!@#$% and Hunters" party to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, with the participants dressing as hunters and in black face. I am deeply saddened that such horrific behavior continues, now directed at Native Americans.

Linda Torres's picture
Linda Torres
Submitted by Linda Torres on
So sad that just when you think you've seen it all, someone else comes up with something even more ignorant and insensitive!

Linda Torres's picture
Linda Torres
Submitted by Linda Torres on
So sad that just when you think you've seen it all, someone else comes up with something even more ignorant and insensitive!