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Responding to Anti-Indigenous Speech at the Rock

Note: On Nov. 11, Provost Kathleen Hagerty sent the original message below to the Northwestern community with the following update:

On Monday, Nov. 8, I and other senior leaders posted on the Leadership Notes page of our website a message condemning the racist, hateful graffiti that was painted on the Rock last weekend. In the days since, the University has painted over the hate speech.

I also have heard from students, faculty and staff who I respect and care about, who told me they were hurt and angered that the message we posted to Leadership Notes was not sent to the entire Northwestern community. As we stated in Monday’s message and reiterate today, the University is unequivocal in support of its Indigenous community and condemns the messages painted over the tribute.

One of Northwestern’s central missions is for our community members to learn and grow, including me. I appreciate the feedback we received over the past several days. Below, you will find the full text of the message that was posted to Leadership Notes on Monday.

Kathleen Hagerty

As we wrapped up the first week of Native American Heritage Month, we were disheartened to discover that the Rock tribute designed in celebration by Northwestern’s Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance (NAISA) was painted over during the weekend with hateful and anti-Indigenous speech. The University is unequivocal in support of its Indigenous community and condemns the messages painted over the tribute. 

We are so proud of our students and their response to the hateful messages. Even in the midst of trauma, they came together to support and celebrate each other. Thank you to the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research (CNAIR) for opening its space for students and community members to come together to process and be in community with each other following this discovery at the Rock.  

This incident demonstrates there is still a wide need for robust education and understanding around Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples, their experiences, contributions, histories and issues in today’s society and beyond. We support NAISA’s decision to leave the Rock unchanged today with an additional banner as an opportunity for awareness and education. We recognize that there may be trauma in seeing the hateful messages but there is a need to be confronted by racism and bigotry. Leaving it is an important pedagogical moment.

We encourage the campus community to join in the opportunities that have been curated to celebrate Native American Heritage Month and will work toward widening opportunities for the campus community to engage and learn about, with and from Indigenous Peoples.

As we do in moments of distress, we remind members of the University community to reach out for help when it is needed.

As we move forward through Native American Heritage Month, please continue to take care of one another.