Whiny Liberals – 1, UND – 0

Posted by Kyle Kosior in Uncategorized on May 15, 2009 — 7 Comments

Word has come out last night and today that the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education has voted unanimously to set an October 1st deadline to suspend the use of the Fighting Sioux nickname at the University of North Dakota. Though this move merely sets the deadline, UND President Robert Kelley feels that this is effectively the death-knell for the long used Fighting Sioux moniker.

As you may have guessed from the headline, I am very against this move. This fight has raged back and forth since I came to North Dakota (and for years beforehand), and I have ample opportunity to listen to both sides of the argument. The anti-nickname side basically contends that the nickname and logo creates a campus environment that is “hostile and abusive” to Native American students. The pro-nickname side points to the plethora of programs and services UND offers Native American students.

I personally fail to see how a name and logo can actually create a hostile environment. Racism has existed before this controversy and it will exist after this controversy because its almost impossible to change the opinions of some small minded people. Changing the logo and nickname will not help this matter one bit. The University of North Dakota has gone above and beyond to create opportunities for Native American students on campus. They had a Native American artist design the logo and a bronze statue of Sitting Bull graces the Ralph Engelstad Arena’s promendade. The Sioux Nation is paid homage during every UND home game in what I would consider to be a very respectful manner. The logo is certainly a better likeness of a Native American than is Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians logo. So again, would someone tell me why this logo is hostile and abusive?

Instead of focusing on actual problems associated with racism and/or the plight of the local Native Americans (poverty on the reservations, for example) these do-gooders have focused on a feel good platitude that really solves nothing. Warped from taking too many college level sociology courses from burned out hippies, the politically correct crowd has made an empty gesture to assuage their liberal guilt and the university community is now worse off because of it.

I could perhaps reluctantly get behind a movement that would see all potentially offensive names removed, but that is not the case here. Other schools and teams across the country continue to survive and thrive despite nicknames and logos related to Native Americans, yet UND continues to be singled out for punishment. What makes the Fighting Irish so different from the Fighting Sioux? The Notre Dame logo and nickname conjures up a somewhat offensive caricature of Irish people as a drunken, brawling lot. Yet they are free to play under the name and logo, heck, they can even host the President of the United States as their commencement speaker. To me, this double standard is just another strike against the anti-nickname forces.

While this is only tangentially related to hockey, it should be noted that wherever the UND (insert politically correct name here) play next year, people will be reminded that an excellent opportunity for a discussion of and action on the important issues of racism and poverty was neglected for pure politically correct pap and feel good sloganeering. When the PC thought police come for you and your team’s nickname, remember the lessons learned here.

I would like to invite both sides of the argument to discuss the issue in the comments (rationally, please).

  • Good call Kyle. I agree that the name really isn’t the issue and won’t solve a problem like racism.

    If you take it to the conclusion those in the liberal left would like and assume the name is changed to North Dakota Fighting Bisons (I apologize in advance to all Bisons who are offended by that name), what then? Does Grand Forks become a more tolerant society simply because the name was changed. Not likely.

  • David, you make a good point. This isn’t a quick fix issue. Just like electing a Democrat President didn’t make the terrorists our bffs, liminating the nickname won’t mean that kids that have been going without meals on one of the reserves will suddenly have a full fridge and pantry. It just means that the do-gooders won’t see something that reminds them about it. For all their moaning and wailing, they are just looking for a quick fix to soothe their guilty conscience.

  • Looked at the ‘other side’ of the debate and from B.R.I.D.G.E.S comes this FAQ:

    Why is the use of American Indian people as mascots and symbols offensive?

    The continued use of American Indian people as mascots, logos, and symbols is wrong. It denies a race of people the basic right of respect. By tolerating the use of demeaning stereotypes, we desensitize and objectify people. When using a race of people as nothing more than mascots and symbols, we are teaching the next generation of non-Indian children that it is okay to participate in culturally abusive behavior.

    Why is it okay for schools on reservations to use “Indian” logos and nicknames?

    Only American Indian people have the right to choose how they are portrayed. If a reservation school chooses their school name, it is their perogative. Native people should have the right to say how their image is projected to the outside public.

    How does the continued use of “Fighting Sioux” harm Native American people?

    By portraying Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota students on campus as the “Fighting Sioux,” you are participating in a misconception of American Indians as being inclined towards particularly “war-like” and “violent” behavior. This denies the Native students on campus their sense of pride, integrity, and place in a unique cultural heritage. It transforms them into dehumanized “things.”

    Aren’t there more important issues for Native people to be concerned about?

    There is nothing more important than one’s sense of identity and self-worth. A person’s self esteem is shaped, to a great extent, by how they are portrayed by others. This is especially true with children.

    Why do some American Indian people support the use of “Fighting Sioux”?

    American Indian people, like Euro-American people, are not monolithic. People’s perspectives vary. However, virtually every national American Indian organization supports a change.

    Can we find a common ground on this issue?

    UND administration’s strategic plan calls for more educational forums emphasizing cultural awareness and sensitivity. Increasing racial awareness is always a step in the right direction. However, until the symbol and nickname are removed the plan is no more than broken promises and empty, hypocritical rhetoric.

    Why aren’t American Indian people honored by the use of “Fighting Sioux”?

    Saying it is an “honor” does not make it one. American Indian people have never asked for this. Honoring a race of people because of their “war-like abilities,” gives the impression that Native people are relics, existing only in the past.

  • Is the word “fighting” the problem here? Would a compromise to just the Sioux be appropriate. If not, how do Native Americans view the names of cities such as Sioux Falls and Sioux City?

  • My favorite part of this debate is that when Ralph Engelstad (notorious Nazi sympathizer and cantankerous old coot that he was) offered to build UND it’s new arena he did so with the caveat being that UND revert back to their old logo, similar to that of the Chicago Blackhawks (previously, they had changed their logo.) When there was money on the table, UND and its officials were pleased to flush their liberalism and political correctness down the loo. In return they got was is easily the nicest arena I have ever stepped foot into. Now that Engelstad has passed away, and the arena has been built, they climbed back aboard their moral high horses and wagged their finger at those who would dare support the continuation of this as their logo. The behavior of UND officials in this case, is one of the worst examples of hypocrisy run amok I have seen in a very long time. For shame.

  • DutchShamrock

    So what I should take from this is that since I have Irish heritage I should be offended by Notre Dame. The knickname ‘Fighting Irish’ should not be at best a source of pride, but a disparaging slur towards a misunderstood people.

    I never really looked at the Fighting Irish name as a misrepresentation, or as any representation, of the Irish. I guess I have as much of a stake in that name as the Sioux have in UND’s knickname. And when I see ‘Fighting Sioux’ and the logo, it doesn’t conjur up images of savagery or war. Just like Notre Dame doesn’t invoke thoughts of drinking, brawling or bombing. In the end, if the Sioux people are truly offended the name should be changed. This shouldn’t come from outsiders who are worried about what other outsiders think or feel about a name. The name belongs to the Sioux, they should be comfortable with how they are perceived… I just hope that they and other liberals understand exactly what the true perception is.

  • Shamrock, I was certainly not intending that. You actually summed up in a word what I needed a paragraph to (unsuccessfully) convey. Perception is the key here, if the Sioux name doesn’t conjure negative images or bad memories for the Sioux people, then let it be.

    I was trying to use the Irish to juxtapose the issue.

    It seems here that the Native Americans have been told by well meaning people that they should be offended because of the different perceptions, and this has led to the current situation.