“The freshmen this year are so odd,” one junior says to her friend as they make their way to class earlier today. “Why did they go and build a coconut in the ground?”
“Yeah, its really no wonder why they weren’t allowed to have River Run,” the other responds.
Much to the surprise of these juniors, both of whom wished to remain anonymous because of the cultural (in)sensitivity of their comments, and many others who have seen the large, brown structure in front of Matthews Hall, freshman debauchery is not responsible for the new addition to Harvard Yard.
The construction is called a Wetu, and it is the result of a collaborative effort between the Harvard College Native Americans and supporters from the surrounding area. What French native Anouk A. Kemp ’12 called “a homage to American football or something,” is actually a handmade replica of a home commonly used by Native Americans in the Northeast.
The Wetu was built to commemorate the inextricably bound histories of Harvard University and the Native American community. Its location outside of Matthews marks the site where the Harvard Indian College once stood.
But the Wetu elicited some interesting responses from passersby. “It wouldn’t really bother me to have it there for a long time…but imagine waking up in that thing…” said one freshman who plead anonymity, so as not to seem culturally insensitive. Another student, who also wished to be anonymous, belittled the Wetu as “a project for some anthropology core.”
But “Harvard is both a native and Western place,” Assistant Professor of History and Literature and of Folklore and Mythology Lisa T. Brooks said at the ceremony today for the Wetu.
To the unknowing it may seem like a coconut, but really it is much more.
Still curious about the Wetu? Check out today's issue of The Crimson for more info.
Photo by Kane Hsieh, Crimson Staff Photographer.