But that wasn't the experience for one University of South Dakota student and her son.
Alexis Oskolkoff and her 10-year-old son Joseph were all smiles, as they got ready to take part in the University's annual homecoming parade.But the picture they took earlier that day doesn't reflect the painful memories they now have. "While they were going by, they were saying 'oh look at those Indians.' And they started going (makes sound of traditional Native American calls) and doing--mocking us. And you know, I'm use to having, you know, those types of things done to me or said to me but the look on my son's face, you know, he was really hurt," said Oskolkoff, a senior Archaeology major.
His pain she says has caused Joseph to feel ashamed and confused about his culture. "Sad. Our culture is about us and we're born like that," said the 10-year-old in a taped conversation he had with his mother. The incident with the student group, the Strollers, has escalated to an online platform on the USD confessions page on Facebook, where people have continued to use insensitive language toward Alexis and other minority groups.
Students who weighed in on the issue, say it's complicated. "I was very surprised. USD is um really good about diversity. I know all the people I've met are really good and they're accepting of everyone, even though it's not a very diverse campus," said Grant Lockner, USD Class of 2014. "There's been some subliminal undertones, but, you know, sometimes you try to take that as a person not particularly knowing or being ignorant or just not knowing that a particular statement could be offensive," said Ph.D. student Harrison Kibomko. "People say they're not racist, say they're not bigots, say these things but I've noticed that from small towns people are actually are ignorant to the fact that they are ignorant," said USD senior Charles Gresser. A zero tolerance policy for violence and discrimination is in place and school leaders say they'll ramp up efforts to improve relations among minority and white students.
"And I hope that they learn that this is something that's not acceptable and something that's really hurtful," said Oskolkoff, choking back tears.
The homecoming day incident ultimately has heightened awareness for cultural inclusivity on campus.
Administration and students we spoke with hope that the university will evolve and accept diversity here on campus.
Oskolkoff, a member of the Lakota Wiyan tribe, did meet with University officials and the students who initiated the insults.
The Strollers have since apologized and she hopes to move forward and help bring light to other student's experiences.
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