NDSU President calls for review of school song due to "troubling" lyrics

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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Dr. Michael Yellow Bird, NDSU's Director of Tribal and Indigenous People's Studies, said lyrics in "The Yellow and the Green" celebrate Manifest Destiny, which didn't end well for Native Americans.

"Passing of the red man and the buffalo are really clear references to Manifest Destiny. The settlers came. White settlers came into our country. They wiped out the buffalo. Nearly wiped out the buffalo so that there's almost no purebred buffalo left," Yellow Bird said. "They almost wiped out the native people here."

Yellow Bird said the whole song needs to be examined by NDSU because it's celebrating the genocide of Native Americans.

Mackayla Headlee, a student at NDSU, said she wasn't aware of the lyrics in the song. However, she's glad the University addressed the problem once it was pointed out.

"If there's anything in it that's not inclusive to all people or it's discriminatory to people, we should take it out of all of our publications that have it on it," Headlee said.

ORIGINAL STORY: The President at North Dakota State University has ordered a review of the school song, after discovering what he calls “a troubling matter” in the lyrics.

President Dean Bresciani said someone on NDSU's anti-racism board alerted him to the third verse of "The Yellow and The Green”; a campus tradition since 1908.

Bresciani said he hadn’t heard the song past the first stanza until recently. He said the third verse contains a variety of cultural and ethnic references, which by contemporary standards are troubling.

The third verse of the school song currently reads:

"Hushed upon the boundless prairies Is the bison's thundering tread,
And the red man passes with him
On his spoiler's bounty fed.
But the Norse, the Celt and Saxon
With their herds increase and find
Mid these fields of green and yellow
Plenty e'en for all mankind."

If you search the NDSU website, you will now only find the first verse "The Yellow and The Green.” Bresciani has ordered Provost Ingram and Vice President for Student Affairs Alvarez to create a faculty, staff and student group to study the song and offer recommendations.

President Bresciani’s full email to staff can be seen below.

Campus Community-

I recently had a troubling matter brought to my attention which I felt called for immediate action. While some may initially find it an overstated concern, others will find it central to a deep and sober examination of our campus history. I believe it is important to share my reactions with you, as they reflect a commitment to maintaining the diverse, welcoming and supportive campus community we all value.

Our school song, the “Yellow and the Green,” has been a long-standing and broadly enjoyed tradition of our campus since 1908. Typically it is only performed through its first stanza; to be honest I have never heard it beyond that and I suspect most in our University community are like me. However, through our University’s system for confidential reporting of bias issues, I’ve learned that the third stanza contains a variety of cultural and ethnic references (toward both majority and minority populations) which by contemporary standards are troubling.

While we cannot “un-write” history or a song, as an academic community I felt it was appropriate to take two actions. The first action was the intermediary but immediate removal of all but the first stanza from NDSU websites and publications. The second action was asking Provost Ingram and Vice President for Student Affairs Alvarez to bring together a faculty, staff and student group to study the song in its entirety and offer recommendations on the balance between our history and tradition of the song with contemporary concerns for its appropriateness. My intention is that the thoughtful and respectful conversation our campus community has traditionally valued will come from doing so.

Dean Bresciani