In letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Haskell students claim a 6-month investigation took place on campus but hasn’t been made public

photo by: Journal-World File

A sign at the entrance to Haskell Indian Nations University is shown Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.

In a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in January, Haskell Indian Nations University students claim that a lengthy investigation into allegations of misconduct on campus wrapped up months ago but has yet to be made public.

The letter, which the Journal-World has obtained a copy of, claims a Bureau of Indian Education investigation took place at Haskell during a span of more than six months in 2022 and by the beginning of this year had uncovered “extensive evidence” of a number of crimes perpetrated by a group of about 10 employees — fraudulent reports to remove staff, multiple “forms of assault,” sexual abuse committed by students and employees, and the embezzlement and theft of federal property. The BIE oversees Haskell’s operations and is housed under the Department of the Interior.

“The faculty members we have exchanged some thoughts and ideas (with) believe, as do the students, the investigation’s findings are 100% being covered up,” the letter reads. “We have seen systematic abuse, neglect of victims and strong efforts by BIE officials in encouraging Haskell faculty to not discuss Haskell’s investigation.”

The Journal-World reached out to Haskell for comment Friday morning but was directed to send questions to the BIE’s general press inbox; past inquiries the newspaper has sent to the inbox have routinely gone unanswered during the past year. One source familiar with the claims also directed the Journal-World to an investigator who was supposedly a part of the investigation team, BIE Supervisory HR Specialist James Bartlett. In response to an email asking whether an investigation had taken place, Bartlett said that inquiry would be responded to via a Freedom of Information Act process that the Journal-World initiated nearly a year ago on May 3. The Journal-World has yet to receive relevant information on the matter as part of the 10-month-old FOIA request.

The letter is signed by the Haskell cross country team, which may signal how the investigation it claims took place may have been initiated. A group of student-athletes with the team told the Journal-World last June that they were made to sign a no-contact agreement stemming from a separate federal investigation of the team’s former coach, Clay Mayes.

There had been allegations that Mayes created a hostile environment for practices, but a group of cross country runners told the Journal-World in June that the real problems stemmed from a group of Haskell administrators who had been a source of constant ire and intimidation. Several of the administrators were connected to the Haskell athletic department in one way or another.

It is not clear whether the alleged investigation has resulted in changes within the athletic department, but Haskell’s website indicates there has been a change in leadership in the athletic department. Judith Gipp was no longer listed as acting athletic director on Haskell’s athletics website when the Journal-World checked on Friday. Instead, school of business instructor Zachary Wilkerson is listed in an interim capacity. It’s unclear when that change took place.

The letter to the Secretary of the Interior in January also notes that more students than just the members of the cross country team are expressing concerns. The cross country runners have been joined by student-athletes with two other teams, plus Haskell faculty and alumni, at recent meetings, the letter states.

The letter also expresses frustration at the amount of time a cloud of allegations has hung over the university and its athletic program. In the letter, students compare the alleged Haskell investigation to a BIE investigation at another school last year — St. Stephen’s Indian School, a K-12 school located on the Wind River reservation in Wyoming.

The St. Stephen’s investigation took place in April 2022, spanning only about half a week, and focused on allegations of sexual harassment, bullying, the consumption of alcohol on school premises and the creation of a toxic work environment. Within the next month or so, the school’s superintendent was fired, along with multiple administrators and school board members. Afterward, the BIE took control of the school’s operations.

“We don’t know how to word this, but it is essential (for) someone non-biased, who cares for Haskell, to review the report for Haskell’s six-month investigation, and ensure Haskell follows all legal guidelines and maintain consistency,” the letter reads. “Haskell’s response is non-existent.”


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