The First Nations Student Association (FNSA) organized a rally on Wescoe Beach Monday to raise awareness and condemn the vandalism of four pieces of Indigenous artwork on display at the Spencer Museum of Art.
The protest, which lasted about an hour, was attended by about a hundred people, including KU and Haskell Indian Nations University students, staff members and faculty.
Attendees at the rally were also upset about the silence on the matter from KU’s administration.
“The silence of the Chancellor was worse than the actual event that had happened,” said Tweensa Mills, the Co-Chair of FNSA. “The University of Kansas did not support us it felt like.”
Saralyn Reece Hardy, the director of the Spencer Museum of Art, attended the rally.
“Both the works of art and the public event today found presence in the public sphere, granting rightful voice and presence to Indigenous people,” Hardy said. “As the representative of the Spencer Museum, I was honored to stand and be with native students, staff and faculty of KU and Haskell. I thought it was very inspiring to see students and so many people gathered to express their solidarity.”
Mills, who was a speaker at the rally, performed a short Indigenous song that echoed through the crowds of this gathering.
“We have always persevered, we have always survived and were able to move forward, with a smile and positivity, and that's what we're here to do,” Mills said.
Mills drew a distinction between a protest and a rally. The gathering Monday was a rally, she said.
“We are not against something, we are for the rights of making justice,” Mills said. “We are for the betterment of students, Jayhawks and everyone around.”
Students who study at both Haskell Indian Nations University and KU were present at the protest to express their solidarity during these hard times.
“I think it’s absolutely disgusting and unacceptable,” Danielle Wolff, a KU senior from Vernon Hills, IL studying American Studies taking a course at Haskell, said. “It makes me sad that two of my peers committed such a heinous act.”
Hours after the protest and more than a week since the vandalism occurred, Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer issued a joint statement about the vandalism.
"The vandalism of this year’s Common Work of Art, reminds us all of the work we must do to acknowledge, honor, include and respect Indigenous peoples, their heritage, and their contributions to our shared community and culture," the statement said. "We stand in support of members of our Native Faculty and Staff Council and with students in the First Nations Student Association in condemning this act."