Iron Arrow insults its roots

I am sure everyone was annoyed by that incessant drumming that echoed throughout the entire campus last week. But have you ever stopped to find out who those people are or what they are doing? Or do you simply write them off, figuring that they are performing some strange archaic ritual involving drumming and possibly the sacrifice of a virgin?

On the contrary, those drummers (if they can be called that) belong to Iron Arrow, a group that hails itself as the most prestigious honor society in the school. This group, purportedly founded by a man who was part Native American himself, has come under fire recently from many of our Native American students and faculty. And it is not about the quality of their drumming.

The complaint is being raised by more and more people with an increasing amount of vehemence: Many feel that Iron Arrow is insulting to Native Americans and their history. Among the most grievous criticisms of Iron Arrow are its suggestive name along with the appropriation of traditional Seminole patchwork jackets and of course the use of drumming, which is considered sacred in Native American rituals.

Many members of Iron Arrow refute these claims, holding that they are not acting disrespectfully towards Native Americans, and they do not see the adoption of aspects of their culture as mocking or belittling. After all, Iron Arrow has been doing these things for years upon years, so why should they change now?

However, the fact still remains that many people are insulted. Some feel that the society might have acted out of respect when it was started, but by now, they have lost the meaning of the jackets and the drumming and do not give them the respect they are due. Others simply feel that Iron Arrow had no right to use these cultural icons in the first place.

Whatever the feelings on either side may be, I urge Iron Arrow to seriously evaluate their organization. They may not feel they are doing anything wrong, but if a considerable group of people, Native American and non-Native American alike, are offended, then something must be changed. The organization cannot turn a deaf ear to criticism and staunchly refuse change as long as they are insulting students and faculty at this university.

I am not quite sure if Iron Arrow will have the good sense to take action and assuage the situation. However, it is not enough to simply accuse the Native American dissenters of being too touchy. After all, their feelings of discontent are valid. And my feeling is this: After stealing an entire continent from them through deceit and murder, can’t we at least listen to their complaints?

Travis Atria is a sophomore majoring in English literature.

April 26, 2002


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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