Iron Arrow reforms student officer titles after Miccosukee talks

The area on UM’s campus where Iron Arrow performs their induction ceremony.
The area on UM’s campus where Iron Arrow performs their induction ceremony. Photo credit: Isabella Didio

On Wednesday, Aug. 31, the Iron Arrow Honor Society voted to replace the tribal-influenced titles of their student officers with more commonplace names.

“All references to Chief, Son of Chief, and Medicine Man have been amended to Chair, Treasurer and Lawmaker, respectively. The changes are effective immediately and comes after consultation with leadership of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida,” the Iron Arrow Honor Society said in a statement following an uncontested vote.

These revisions however were promised publicly by the Iron Arrow society in a 2020 statement, but were yet to be finalized by member vote until this week.

This delay in change received criticism in a University of Miami Student Government bill passed in April 2022 that sought to have Iron Arrow disaffiliated from UM and removed as the highest honor on campus. This bill was not approved by upper administration and was subsequently not codified into UM law.

“Iron Arrow has promised to amend their practices, in 2020, noting that ‘Members of the society’s executive board will now be known as chair, assistant chair, and lawmaker, rather than the chief, son-of-chief, and medicine man titles.’ WHEREAS, Iron Arrow continues to, both publicly and privately, use the traditional titles, instead of the new ones, to refer to their executive board,” the bill, brought by the Student Government senate, said.

Both the chair, Sydney Stropes, and faculty advisor to Iron Arrow, Adrian Nuñez, said that the announcement to cease the use of the society’s tribal titles was not a result of the senate bill. Nuñez said that the process to undergo these revisions began long before it was introduced to the UM senate, but was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This has been a change that has been discussed for some time within Iron Arrow,” Stropes, a senior studying nursing and religion and healthcare said. “In conversations with our tribal liaison as well as internally amongst ourselves, it was decided to change titles to be more in line with those currently used by the Miccosukee.”

These conversations were carried out as a part of the Memorandum of Understanding which was signed in 2018 by Iron Arrow in conjunction with UM and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. Meant to facilitate communication between the three bodies on proper cultural practices, it has resulted in a wave of change through the 96-year-old organization.

“We have worked with Miccosukee leadership to assess any changes Iron Arrow can make that may better align with their culture today,” Nuñez said. “Iron Arrow meets regularly with Tribal Liaison, Curtis Osceola, a double ‘Cane BBA ’14 JD ’18 to discuss initiatives and ideas for collaboration. Changes may come as a result, but so will new partnerships.”

Although Iron Arrow has received backlash for cultural appropriation in recent history, Stropes said that she sees these criticisms as opportunities to better their organization and maintain a connection within the Miccosukee as cultural values shift with time.

“Any change that allows us to better represent and honor the Miccosukee is one that I welcome. Our relationship with the Miccosukee is one of cultural appreciation and sharing, we will honor and uphold any practice that they so kindly gift to us,” Stropes said.