Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Akwesasne Mohawk brothers on university tour detained by police, frisked, released without charges after their presence makes a parent 'nervous'

 


Two Mohawk brothers were harassed by police and pulled from a college tour at Colorado State University after their presence made a parent “nervous,” according to stories that have been making international headlines.

Thomas Kanewakeron Gray, 19, and his brother, Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, 17, originally from Akwesasne, had saved money and traveled seven hours from their home in Santa Cruz, N.M. to the school in Fort Collins, Colo.

Upon arriving in the new city they became lost, but found their way to CSU thirty minutes late for the scheduled tour.

Thomas Kanewakeron Gray told the Associated Press that police stopped him and his brother while the tour group was inside a gymnasium and began aggressively questioning them about why they were on campus that day. Campus police patted down each of the teens and released them only after they were able to provide an email proving they had reserved spots on the tour, AP reported.

School officials later told AP that a parent on the tour called police because they were “nervous” about the Native brothers’ presence.

Lorraine Gray stated to Indian Time, “This biased woman not only judged my sons for the color of their skin, but also for the way they dressed, their choice of music, and believe it or not, for being teenagers without adult supervision on a college campus. While we don’t blame CSU for the actions of this narrow minded family, I am disappointed in their response to her racist judgment, and saddened that they chose not to protect my young, innocent sons from this potentially dangerous mindset. If I cannot trust them to protect my family for an hour, how can I trust that they will be safe on their campus for four years?”

When talking about “their choice of music,” she was referring to the fact that her sons were wearing t-shirts with heavy metal band logos at the time of the incident.

After police released them without any charges, the brothers decided to leave the college.

Police-worn body camera footage of the incident can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/y7lcxscj.

In the video, police approach the brothers and then demand they take their hands out of their pockets and keep them in the air while they pat down the teens.

“People were just worried because you were real quiet and didn’t answer any of their questions and you didn’t show up with a parent,” says the officer wearing the body camera, who is not identified in the footage.

“They were trying to listen. Why should it be a crime to listen and not engage in a conversation?” their mother, Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray, told the Denver Post.

She told the publication that CSU officials have called her and left apologetic messages but Gray said she is not ready to talk to them. Gray told the Denver Post that she is mostly upset with the campus tour guide, who apparently didn’t notice that police officers led her two sons away.

The two were touring the college as the older Gray brother was contemplating a transfer there after a year in community college.

“The older brother said the school was their first choice, because of its proximity to Denver, where they could attend concerts. The brothers, both Mohawk, are musicians, and study contemporary and traditional music”.

The older of the two brothers is currently a student at Northern New Mexico College in Espanola and hoped to transfer. The younger brother is a high school senior at Santa Fe Indian School. The boys were set on studying in the Denver area because there is a big appreciation for metal music, and that would help advance their music career. This reaction at CSU has unfortunately altered their thinking.

Lorraine Gray stated to IT, “They have to go back to square one and reassess all of the schools on their list and make a decision that is not only wise and practical, but also ensures their safety. Skanahwati graduates from Santa Fe Indian School on May 25th. On that day as each student accepts their diploma, they will also announce what college they will be attending in the fall. Sadly, they will be unable to announce a school for my son.”

Yahoo News reported that CSU president Tony Frank said in an email to students and faculty Friday that the university will start using badges or lanyards to identify tour guests. Police will also be able to contact guides if officers need to talk to participants, and guides will establish themselves as the first point of contact for any concerns, Yahoo reported.

“The tour incident and its implications have troubled and angered many of us on campus as well as many of our alumni and people with no connection to CSU. The emotions released have ranged from sadness to frustration to anger, all flowing from a reservoir of sympathy created by imagining ourselves or our children in this situation,” Frank wrote in a lengthy statement in response to the incident. “This empathy unmasks the fundamental unfairness at play, and creates a cognitive dissonance with who we are and who we aspire to be. The resounding theme expressed to our office has been that people want to ensure we are reaching out to the young men and doing what we can to make things right.”

The entire statement is at https://safety.colostate.edu.

Ms. Gray added, “We want to let the world know that this didn’t just happen to my boys, it happens to native kids every day. We are just fortunate that we have a strong network of activist friends and family who are working diligently to share our story with the world. And the world is listening for now.

“My advice to parents is to teach your children how to react during unexpected conflict, especially where law enforcement is involved. I have been doing that for years, and I believe that potentially saved their lives.”

The incident attracted the attention of a heavy metal band called Cattle Decapitation, whose shirt one of the brothers was wearing during the CSU incident.

“WEAK. Thomas Kanewakeron Gray and Skanahwati Lloyd Gray you get free guest list spots to our shows for life,” the band wrote on their Facebook page, along with a link to a Washington Post story talking about the brothers’ ordeal.

“Thank you everyone for the support. We love everyone. Its [sic] really hard to come up with a proper reaction to everyones [sic] help. Its very overwhelming but nonetheless, I [sic] hope this teaches a lesson to everyone that is going through any sort of discrimination or racial acts. Keep yourself going. What happened was wrong in so many ways and we wish this on no one else,” Thomas Kanewakeron Gray wrote in a comment thread attached to the post.

Dozens of fans commented in support of the brothers and spoke out against their treatment at CSU.

“Imagine having such a privileged, sheltered existence that you need to call the cops when two quiet aboriginal kids are just in your area,” wrote Ben Harbik of Edmonton, Alberta.

“Thrash on, Gray Brothers! Remain respectful even in the face of opposition, but don’t let anything stand in your way. Do great and make this world a better place. Decapitacion por vida,” wrote Javier Castillo of El Paso, Texas.

Sources for this story included an AP article at https://tinyurl.com/ybotz2uh, a Washington Post article at https://tinyurl.com/yczvjye4, a Denver Post article at https://tinyurl.com/ybnoolfd and a Yahoo News article at https://tinyurl.com/ybgvcp3y.

 

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