ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Colorado State University is inviting two Native American teenagers pulled from a campus tour by police back to the school, saying it will pick up the tab for them to travel there for a VIP tour with their family.
The school also said Friday it would refund the money the brothers spent to travel to the school for last Monday’s tour. College officials say a woman in that tour group called police and reported feeling nervous about the presence of 19-year-old Thomas Kanewakeron Gray and his 17-year-old brother, Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, after they joined the tour late.
“We deeply regret the unwelcoming and concerning experience they had while guests on our campus,” said the university, which says it is reviewing how a similar incident can be avoided or handled differently in the future.
Thomas Kanewakeron Gray said police stopped him and his brother while the tour group was inside a gymnasium and began questioning them aggressively 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.
By then, however, their tour group had moved on without them and the brothers left the campus in Fort Collins, a city of about 161,000 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Denver, and returned home to New Mexico.
“I think it’s pretty discriminatory,” 19-year-old Thomas Kanewakeron Gray said Thursday. “Me and my brother just stayed to ourselves the whole time. I guess that was scaring people; that we were just quiet.”
The teens’ mother, Lorraine Gray, said Friday that the family has received apologetic messages from the university and is aware of its offer to return to the school for a VIP tour. However, she said they are not ready to respond, given that she and her sons have not had the opportunity to fully discuss the situation.
The younger son is a senior at Santa Fe Indian School, which is about a 30-minute drive from the family home and where he stays in a dorm during the week with other Native American students from tribes across the United States. He returned to the school early Tuesday morning, just hours after he and his older brother arrived home from their Colorado trip.
The older brother is currently a student at Northern New Mexico College in Espanola and hoped to transfer.
The siblings saved until they had enough money to drive the roughly seven hours from the family’s home in Santa Cruz, New Mexico to Fort Collins for the tour.
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 brothers’ ordeal marks the latest in a series of incidences nationwide spotlighting treatment minorities often face in everyday circumstances, including the arrest of two black men at a Starbucks in Philadelphia who were handcuffed and taken to jail after a worker said they had refused to buy anything or leave.