Lewis & Clark is nothing if not plagued by its history. Last month, graffiti decrying the manner in which LC upholds the legacies of Lewis Meriwether and William Clark, by taking their names ,appeared on campus. In response to this, the school has decided to take bold and unprecedented action to make amends with Indigenous people whose familial histories bear marks of colonization.
“We completely understand how our students feel, and are therefore very excited about this program,” Dean of Outreach Karen Bradshaw said. “I mean, my great grandma was a Cherokee princess, so I’m basically Native myself, so I really get it. We’re happy to offer all of our Native American students 15% off at the Lewis & Clark bookstore, valid through December 1. Some exclusions may apply. Roll Pios!”
Reviews regarding the discount have been mixed. Some have called it “worse than doing nothing” and “outright offensive,” while others described it as “honestly, better than I expected from this administration.”
Several students questioned why the administration was hesitant to take more substantial action. According to Bradshaw, it would just be too much work.
“I mean, I guess we could change the name of the school,” Bradshaw said. “But that would be a whole big thing, y’know? Like, we’d have to change all the signs on all the buildings. And we have a whole bunch of buildings. Oh, and I just got new business cards, and they all say Lewis & Clark on them, so those would be useless, and I’d have to get new ones. It’d just be a big hassle. There’s not any money to hire any Indigenous professors, or integrate any Indigenous studies classes, either.”
Bradshaw later clarified.
“Well, there’s some money,” she said. “But we have to spend that on the football team.”
I questioned Bradshaw about her dedication to the football team. Her eyes grew steely as determination colored her gaze. I sensed that she was staring through me to something I was unable to see, something bigger than either of us.
“They’re getting so close to winning the championship,” she said, clenching her fist. “We can’t give up on them now!”
I also spoke briefly with Neo Libbral ’22 of Slow n’ Steady, an activism group aiming to combat LC’s troubling history. The group took to Instagram to condemn the graffiti and laud the peaceful methods they themselves employ, which according to Libbral, “are super-duper close to actually working.”
“We’ve been sending emails and attending board meetings for decades, and I’ll admit, not much has happened, but I think the dominoes are about to fall,” Libbral said. “We’re just 50 or 60 more peaceful protests away from real administrational change.”
Right now, the group is collecting signatures on a petition to get the administration to look at the group’s other petitions. I signed, more out of pity than anything else.
The announcement of the discount is the largest step LC has taken toward racial justice since last year’s punch card program to combat tokenism. Every LC student of color was given a punch card, and receives a punch every time a photo of them is used in LC promotional material. When students amass ten punches, they are able to trade in their card for a free coffee from Maggie’s.
“It’s good and bad,” Amara Nez ’24 said about the punch card program. Nez is an Afro-Indigenous student whose face is visible in no less than two dozen spots on the LC website and campus. “On one hand, it really sucks that my image is being used to propagate the myth that this campus is particularly diverse. But on the other hand, I’ve never had to pay for my own coffee.”
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