The Peace Garden Moderate

Matters of today from the perspective of a University of North Dakota student.

9/20/2005

Fighting Sioux

In today's issue of UND's The Dakota Student, the below-the-fold front page story was "Students Speak Out." For anyone following the news, the recent NCAA action that bans colleges from having Native American nicknames has effected UND. While the school's President, Charles Kupchella, has sent an appeal to the organization, many on the campus are still divided over the issue.

From the story:
UND's association with the Sioux name is an important part of the argument for those who oppose the Sioux logo. To many, UND has helped take away the identity of some of the tribes and generalize the Native American people.
I don't understand this argument. How does it take away anything? At the very least, it should help spread awareness of who the Sioux are and where they come from. At every Sioux football game in the Alerus Center, a short video plays describing the Sioux tribes as "courageous" and "overcoming diversity." Isn't this how you would want to be recognized?

First, the name of the tribe was not derived from their own people. The word "Sioux" comes from the Ojibwe word meaning "snake in the grass." The two nations were known to war against each other.

Second, what is today referred to as the Sioux nation are actually seven separate bands of Indian tribes. By using the name "Sioux," the university is grouping Native Americans into one category and ignoring the individual bands and tribes.

This doesn't make any sense either. When UND uses the Sioux nickname, it isn't looking to be the official historian of Native Americans in the upper midwest. UND never claimed to be only trying to represent one tribe. Instead, it uses the Sioux moniker to encompass all the tribes in the region because all the tribes in the region have a history of standing up against challenges and overcoming odds.
Other students, however, don't consider the logo issue as important as other issues. Kyle Hill of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa said, "I think the logo is a very insignificant thing to think about nationally and internationally considering the situation."

Francine White of the Three Affiliated Tribes agreed, saying the university and tribes should be putting more emphasis on increased Native American and minority enrollment and prevention of student drop-out of both native and non-native students.

Bingo! Let's stop worrying about petty issues and start worrying about what a university is really about: education.

The story goes on to address other issues regarding the name and logo. Among them are racism in general on campus. While I've seen none of this in my short tenure here, there's no doubt in my mind that it exists. Worrying about a logo and nickname will never address the issue of racism. People have prejudice because it was implanted into them. Addressing that can be done in a much more effective and direct manner than changing a logo.

By the way, at last Saturday's Potato Bowl football game against the Western Washington Vikings (gasp! a generalization of Scandinavian people), I saw a father and his two young sons hold up a large sign reading "We [heart] the Sioux!" Clearly they are generalizing racists.

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