Students feel unwelcome after vandal writes ‘Columbus Rules 1492’ on sacred fire circle

Students feel unwelcome after vandal writes ‘Columbus Rules 1492’ on sacred fire circle

“Columbus Rules 1492” was written in red paint on the sacred fire circle at Dejope Residence Hall Monday morning, according to a letter from Vice Provost for Student Life Lori Berquam.

The letter was sent to members of Wunk Sheek, an indigenous student group on campus.

“This is unacceptable, hurtful and criminal and I am so sorry,” Berquam said in the letter.

Mariah Skenandore, Co-President of Wunk Sheek, a Native American student group on campus, was in class when she heard about the vandalism.

“A lot of times my academics are put on the back burner because of the way this campus makes me feel,” she said. “It really makes it difficult for us to even be here. Because those are spaces made for us to feel welcome at home and places that are made for our community. Now, I wonder if I can go there anymore without being reminded of those events,” Skenandore explained.

The UW Police Department is still investigating the case. Police believe only one person is involved in the vandalism.

“You look at the day in which this happened and the message that this person had and where this occurred on this very sacred fire circle on this very sacred piece of land on our university campus. I think this has impacted a lot of people. A lot of people are scratching their head as to why would people do this,” UWPD spokesperson Marc Lovicott said.

The graffiti was quickly removed.

” It can be really difficult to not identify with anyone and have those identities be disrespected so blatantly especially on a day they were supposed to be celebrated,” Skenandore said.

Berquam, along with director of University Housing Jeff Novak and vice provost of Division of Diversity Patrick Sims, Equity & Educational Achievement, condemned the vandalism in a separate letter sent to the UW campus.

” UW-Madison strongly condemns this criminal act and the clear bigotry behind it, particularly on a day that is so significant to Native American peoples and the loss of their cultures. Native heritage revitalization and recognition of tribal sovereignty are important to our institution.”

On Monday, campuses around the country, including Madison, celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day.