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