Native American exhibit vandalism sparks protest

On Wednesday afternoon, the Native American House and American Indian Studies held an open meeting called “Vandalism and Bias on Nevada Street“ in response to the recent damage of art pieces from the exhibit entitled “Beyond the Chief.“

The forum, which was held at the Asian American Cultural Center, gave students, faculty and community members an opportunity to discuss the significance of the recent vandalism to the exhibit.

“I was most pleased to see the students’ concern here on Nevada Street,” said Edgar Heap of Birds, the Cheyenne-Arapaho artist who designed the exhibit.

Heap of Birds came from Oklahoma to speak at the meeting.

“It’s time for students to quit hiding from any type of fear,” said Heap of Birds. “Students should feel welcome.”

He said the “Beyond the Chief” exhibit provides an opportunity for students at the University to consider the indigenous history of campus and the state of Illinois.

Along with speaking about the vandalism on Nevada Street, Heap of Birds presented a slide show with pictures of his other exhibits and gave first-hand accounts of his experiences.

“Mr. Heap of Birds’ artistic intervention provides a unique opportunity for the community to gain greater knowledge about the local and national history of Native Americans,” said Robert Warrior, the curator of the exhibit and director of Native American House and American Indian Studies. “When you put yourself out there, you put yourself at risk also. I ask people to continue to be more public with their concerns.”

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano also spoke at the meeting.

“I was deeply offended and hurt when I saw the vandalism of the signs,” Romano said.

She added that she wanted to catch the people who were responsible for the vandalism as soon as possible.

“I want to stop this hostile environment,” she added.

At the end of the meeting, the speakers took questions, comments and suggestions from the audience.

Co-sponsors of the event included the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural Latina, Asian American Cultural Center, Department of African American Studies and Asian American Studies.