ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The termination of McMurry’s Tipi Village was met with mixed reaction Tuesday, but some are championing the university board’s decision to end the 68-year-long tradition.
In a video released early Tuesday afternoon, McMurry University President Dr. Sandra Harper said the school’s board of trustees decided to end the village because the event could have the opposite intended effect.
“The practice of unaffiliated tribal members wearing costumes and telling stories of the tribes could be perceived by some as dishonoring the tribes,” said Dr. Harper.
While some alumni disagree with the college’s decision some like alumna Heather Hyde Wargo say the choice was in the best interest of indigenous people.
“As a Theta Chi I would memorize Blackfoot history months leading up to the village because we wanted to get it right. It wasn’t a mockery but times have changed and we’ve grown and we can do better,” said Hyde Wargo.
Hyde Wargo was attending McMurry when the university was in the process of changing the school’s mascot per orders from the NCAA.
“When I started we were the Indians and then I think it was my senior year when they said a change was coming and there was an upset,” said Hyde Wargo.
The now teacher who still lives in Abilene says it’s strange to see her alma mater scrutinized once again in regard to cultural sensitivity; however, she says it’s encouraging to know her fellow alumni and administrators are willing to have difficult conversations.
“It’s been fascinating to see my alumni community get uncomfortable and really try to grow,” said Hyde Wargo.
McMurry Senior Josephine Woytas understands the university’s decision although, she says, it is bittersweet.
Woytas is also a member of a social club on campus, the main population of students that constructs the village. While she says a lot of research is done before the homecoming setup, disbanding the tradition removes the potential for human error.
“You can’t always guarantee if everyone’s representing the tribes correctly,” said Woytas.
While Woytas, like many are sad to see the tradition go, there’s a small silver lining for her social club.
“We set the record for setting up a tipi and now that they’re doing away with that we’re forever holding that,” said Woytas.
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