Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
A view of the Cherokee Female Seminary at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Allegations of Racism at NSU Recall Indian Education’s Darker Days

Christina Rose
5/30/14

Dr. Leslie Hannah, Cherokee, believes education has taken a serious turn against Natives at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. After Hannah was fired from NSU, he filed a lawsuit against the university and several of its administrators and faculty.

Recruited by NSU to head the Cherokee Studies and Language programs, Hannah says his problems began when he was promoted to department head of Languages and Literature, College of Liberal Arts. NSU Associate Professor Brian Cowlishaw had hoped the position would be his, and made his feelings about Hannah’s election known on Facebook:

Brian Hammer Cowlishaw: There will be an “election” the first week of February. They’re making a fucking indian chair.

Another problem Hannah faced was that he did not receive tenure as he expected.

According to the lawsuit, one white tenure committee member and several other white administrators allegedly wrote condescending and offensive remarks on Facebook and elsewhere about Hannah being Native. These comments included, “Wonder if they sell armor to wear under regalia,” hoping that Dr. Hannah would be “eaten by wolves,” one that derogatorily suggested Hannah was “weaving baskets” and finally, that Hannah participated in Native legendary “dark forces.”

Was it a surprise that Hannah did not receive tenure? “Dr. Hannah was denied tenure when three colleagues, all believed to be white, who were known to have made discriminatory remarks against Dr. Hannah and Native American students, were allowed to vote on his tenure,” the lawsuit states.

Dr. Leslie Hannah (John Clanton/Tulsa World)

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newworldman's picture
newworldman
Submitted by newworldman on
Things have not changed much for Indians at our colleges since I was f***ed over in the 1980s at Mississippi State Univ. One of my painting professors, angry at me for erroneously thinking that I had pulled a prank on him the previous semester (I had nothing to do with the prank, as was later proven), set me up to make it appear as though I had stolen a slide projector from the art department. He pulled me out of class and forced me to search for the "missing" projector in a storage room, where he himself had hidden it. He took great pleasure in ordering me here and there to look for it, when he knew exactly where it was the entire time. He simply wanted to "put me in my place" by making sure that I knew that they all considered me to be nothing but a thief. I complained to the dept. head about the incident, but she refused to look into it. I then went over her head and made an appointment with the dean of arts and sciences to discuss the matter. The dean's office illegally forewarned the accused professor of my appointment, so when I showed up on the appointed day, he walked in, sat down next to me,and harassed me to intimidate me from demanding an investigation. Once I was called into the dean's office, the dean refused to close his door, with both of us aware that this professor sat just outside the office listening in...yet another intimidation tactic. Disgusted with the lot of the racists, I dropped out and never received my degree. 15 years later (1996), the same professor was fired for having committed another infraction against two students...the first and only tenured professor to be fired from MSU. As karma would have it, he died 4 years later of cancer, a very fitting end for such a scoundrel. I have never forgiven MSU for the entire fiasco: the crime and the cover-up, and I use these forums to spread the word about racism at MSU.

swrussel's picture
swrussel
Submitted by swrussel on
When I took up a second career in university teaching, I thought Northeastern OK was the one place where my Cherokee citizenship might give me an advantage, a little ride on the mythical Indian gravy train. I was wrong. I started out at a university a bit higher on the food chain and ended at one greatly higher on the food chain, but every time I trolled for a position in Tahlequah, even offering to take a pay cut, there was no interest. Being Cherokee felt more like a minus than a plus.

choctawgirl's picture
choctawgirl
Submitted by choctawgirl on
Wow Yup another day in OK is right. No crap they hired a NATIVE to represent NATIVE people. These people are so freaking ignorant.

choctawgirl's picture
choctawgirl
Submitted by choctawgirl on
Wow I can relate to that Newworld. Oklahoma is terrible and full of racists. I dealt with people like that my whole life there.

Hope's picture
Hope
Submitted by Hope on
That type of "stuff" has been going on at NSU for years. Racism/Discrimination are alive and well in Tahlequah, OK

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
It is said where there is smoke there is fire. One would have thought that with this school being THE town of the Western Cherokee Nation it would be VERY friendly & receptive to Native people. Something sure went wrong there looks like! ......................................................................................................................... I wonder if Chief Baker or other administrations in that hallowed town have ever considered pulling out all financial assistance to this school? It would be logical to do so considering their arrogance, bigotry & racism that seem to be in control at that school. ......................................................................................................................... How about it Chief Baker? If any place or business of any kind are going to treat Native peoples this poorly then why should the Western Cherokee Nation financially patronize ANY place that does this to any Native people regardless of tribal nation? I say it's high time for a financial boycott of ALL businesses that mistreat our brothers & sisters! ......................................................................................................................... When you can't join them then hurt them where it hurts most: In the bank account!
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