The Michigan Daily - Orientation Edition 2006 - 9
Debate renewed over 'secret society'
Alum slaps 'U' with lawsuit Society plans reforms
Local lawyer says secret
society has not reformed
per 1989 agreement
Feb. 14, 2006
By Gabe Nelson
Daily Staff Reporter'
Although Michigamua has recently
sparked a campus controversy, the Uni-
versity administration remained relatively
unaffected Ann Arbor lawyer and Univer-
sity alum Christopher Bell filed a lawsuit
against the University Board of Regents
this month over its handling of the society
between 1989 and 2000.
Bell is accusing the University of
failing to enforce a 1989 agreement in
which Michigamua legally agreed to
desist from using Native American ref-
erences in its rituals.
"Michigamua has not been served
with any papers and therefore can-
not comment on specific details,"
Michigamua wrote in a statement to
the Daily yesterday. "However, as the
organization has honored its agree-
ments from the past, we are confident
that whatever is alleged is merit-
less. This has all the feel of a further
attempt at sensationalism aimed at
trying to misrepresent Michigamua."
University Regents did not return
phone calls asking for comment.
The society's activities exploited
Native American culture in a'demean-
ing, belittling and disrespectful" way,
Bell wrote in his complaint.
His lawsuit rests on the accusa-
tion that Michigamua appropriated
Native American culture in its ritu-
als for more than 10 years after it
signed the agreement.
The University severed its ties with
the society in 2000.
Whether Michigamua continued using
Native American culture after the agree-
ment is still unclear.
When members of the Students of
Color Coalition took over Michigamua's
meeting place in the tower of the Michi-
gan Union in 2000, they found Native
American artifacts, but Michigamua
members said the artifacts had been in
storage since 1989.
Bell and his co-plaintiff, an anony-
mous University employee only identi-
fied as John Doe, claim to have heard
"pseudo-Native American singing and
drumming coming out of the top floors
of the tower of the Michigan Union,"
according the lawsuit.
Bell wrote that he heard it "some-
time between September 1, 1993 and
December 20, 1994," several years after
the society's agreement to cease using
Native American cultural elements.
past and present
" 1906: Michigauma founded.
" 1989: In an agreement with 'U,' soci-
ety promises to cease using Native Amer-
ican artifacts and references in rituals.
" Feb. 6- Mar. 13, 2000: The
Student of Color Coalition pccupies
Michigauma's offices in the tower of the
Michigan Union and finds Native Ameri-
can artifacts. Michigauma says the
artifacts have been in storage since the
*Feb. 6, 2006: Alum Christopher
Bell files a lawsuit against the 'U'
alleging Michigauma violated the
1989 agreemen between Sept.
1993 and Dec. 1994.
" Feb. 22, 2006: Bell announces a third
plaintiff in the suit.
" Apr. 11, 2006: Michiguama announc-
es reforms, including changing its name
and releasing a list of current members.
Michigauma releases a
list of current members,
plans to change name
Apr. 11, 2006
By Andrew Grossman
and Karl Stampfl
Daily Staff Reporters
After 104 years as Michigamua, the
University's most controversial student
group announced yesterday that it has
retired its name and plans to have a new
one in the fall. The society also made
public the members of its classes of
2006 and 2007.
"Upon consideration of our over-
riding principle of service and
gaining significant input from our
broader Michigan family, our orga-
nization has determined that we will
continue this tradition without using
the name Michigamua," the group
said yesterday in a written statement
to The Michigan Daily.
The announcement was met with
mixed reactions on campus.
The reformation comes in response
to years of criticism and claims that
the senior honor society was racist
because it had previously used Native
American rituals and artifacts in its
meetings. The name Michigamua
was chosen in 1902 to sound like a
mythical NativesAmerican tribe.
The group is mostly composed
of athletes and the leaders of cam-
pus groups. The "Pride of 2007"
includes Michigan Student Assembly
President Nicole Stallings, Michi-
gan football player Adam Kraus and
Interfraternity Council President
LSA junior Brittany Marino, out-
going co-chair of the Native Ameri-
can Student Association, lauded the
reforms, but cautioned that they are
"I think that the name change is a
huge step and obviously something
that the Native community has been
calling for a long time, so I'm very
glad to see the name change," she
said. "But I think it's only one of the
many steps that need to be taken. We
still have a ways to go."
Marino said Michigamua mem-
bers past and present should rec-
ognize the pain they've caused on
campus with an apology and by
holding educational events.
The group, which cut its ties with
the University in 2000, is also exam-
ining the possibility of becoming a
University-sanctioned group again by
going through the Student Organiza-
tion and Recognition process.
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