May 13, 2014 -- Students at the University of North Dakota have been widely criticized for mocking their school’S native American mascot during an end-of-school-year celebration by wearing “Siouxper Drunk” T-shirts.
The weekend event called Springfest is an annual gathering at University Park, which is owned by the City of Grand Forks, adjacent to UND’s campus on University Avenue. Drawing hundreds of participants each year, according to local news outlets, the event includes live music, comedians, pizza, and beer for students who are at least 21.
The T-shirts have set off a firestorm on Twitter at a time when public attention is focused on the use of Native American symbols on everything from sports teams to advertising.
ABC News has been unable to determine who designed the T-shirts but the company that produced them, CustomInk, created numerous shirts for the event, including the controversial one that includes the phrase “Siouxper Drunk” across the chest and features UND’s mascot, the “Fighting Sioux,” drinking from a beer bong.
“It appears it’s going to take 100 years for racism to go away,” says Councilmember Jesse Takenlife from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe located several hours south of the campus. “It is unfortunate to see this occur. It’s almost like a joke in this new millennium to see youngsters do this and it hurts our children.”
CustomInk released a statement Monday, saying, "We handle hundreds of thousands of custom t-shirt designs each year and have people review them to catch problematic content. But we missed this one. We apologize for any pain or offense caused by this shirt, and we will continue to improve our review processes to make them better."
The company has not responded to ABC News’ request for follow-up comment.
UND’s President Robert Kelley said he “was appalled to learn this weekend that a group of individuals had the poor judgment and lack of awareness and understanding to create and then wear T-shirts that perpetuated a derogatory and harmful stereotype of American Indians. These T-shirts were not worn at a UND function -- in fact, the event they are associated with is NOT a university event. They don't appear to have been worn on UND property, and we are not aware that the group represents any UND organization."