Fond du Lac Band Demands Action From Local High Schools After Racist Conversation Spreads On Social Media
DULUTH — The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is demanding a response from leaders of neighboring school districts after a racist and threatening Snapchat conversation between two college students was shared on social media late last week.
The exchange between a student from Esko High School and another from Cloquet High School included a desire that the Cloquet school be bombed so that “all the natives die”. He continued with other disparaging remarks about Native Americans.
“We are horrified and saddened by the ignorant and racist statements of students at schools attended by many Indigenous youth,” Fond du Lac President Kevin Dupuis Sr. wrote in a letter to school district superintendents at Esko and of Cloquet.
“We would like to receive an immediate response from the school districts and school administration on how you intend to address this situation, not only with the specific students involved in the incident, but also with the community. student in the broad sense.
Native American students make up about 14% of public school enrollment in Cloquet. Part of the Fond du Lac reserve, which has its own K-12 school, is in Cloquet. Approximately 1% of Esko students are Native Americans.
In a statement, Cloquet Schools Superintendent Michael Cary said the district will not tolerate racial profiling or racist or hateful language. He apologized “for the harm that this language has done or could do to our students, our families and our community”.
Cary said the Snapchat swap event “will lead to appropriate disciplinary action, individualized education targeting these racist beliefs, and restorative practices to address the damage caused by ignorance.”
Esko Superintendent Aaron Fischer made a similar statement, saying the incident did not reflect district values, but that the administration shared “a responsibility to shape the character of our students.”
“In addition to tackling offenders, we will renew our ongoing efforts to build a culturally competent school community free from intolerance, ignorance and hatred,” he said.
Cloquet and Esko are the last schools in Minnesota where racism surfaced on social media or at sporting events. Authorities are investigating and responding to recent incidents in Edina, New Prague, Minnetonka, Prior Lake and the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District.
Racism within Cloquet schools continues, said Lynn Olson, a Fond du Lac band member whose granddaughter and great-niece attend high school.
“It’s really affecting my daughters,” said Olson, who met with Cloquet’s headteachers after seeing the Snapchat screenshot. “It’s going to traumatize and stick with the kids forever.”
She said she wanted the students involved to apologize to the Native community and for school leaders to do more, including demanding a curriculum that would educate students about Native American oppression and genocide.
Matthew Williams, a second-year hockey player from Cloquet High, said some teammates made fun of Native Americans in the locker room, poking fun at traditions like powwows and dress code.
Williams said players didn’t know he was Native American until the Snapchat exchange sparked a conversation about racism and he shared his heritage. Some apologized, he said, “but I feel like there’s a lot of work to be done.” A long-time hockey player, he says he’s hesitant to continue with the team.
Tia Tokkesdal, a member of the Fond du Lac group and a Cloquet graduate, said she hoped for more transparency from officials.
She said Cloquet school leaders “have made remarks over the loudspeaker and sent an email. But they are not transparent about what actions they took with students or what they will do to prevent this in the future. … Our community deserves to know the outcome.”
School administrators declined to comment on disciplinary details, citing confidentiality laws.
Dupuis, in his letter, asked Cary and Fischer to meet and discuss with the gang leaders how they will work to prevent “racist and violent rhetoric” from students.
“We need to make sure our students stay and feel safe in the public schools they attend,” he said.
The two superintendents have since met with tribal leaders.