April 24, 2009

Spirit Lake vote in perspective

Here's an article that anyone concerned about Indian mascots should read in its entirety.

Jim Grijalva, Grand Forks, column:  Keep Spirit Lake referendum in perspective

The 764-371 result at Spirit Lake, viewed from a more culturally relevant perspective, was a vote that failed to achieve consensus by more than 30 percent.The primary question of what weight we should accord the referendum as an exercise in “democracy” should address at least three issues.

The first is the appropriateness of applying western democracy models to indigenous cultures. ... [I]n comparison to the inclusive, consensus-based decision-making processes traditionally found in many indigenous cultures, democracy’s majority vote paradigm seems an impatient, divisive approach.

Second, while majority vote obviously is a key element in western democracies, so too is protection of the minority’s rights and dignity despite the majority’s contrary view.

A third issue is whether the new discussion has intellectual integrity or simply is result-oriented hypocrisy. If democracy is the touchstone principle, then the tribal laws enacted by the duly elected representatives of nearly every Sioux nation in both Dakotas over the past decade should have been particularly compelling.
Comment:  Yes, mascot supporters believe in getting Native input...except when they don't. More precisely, they believe in getting Native input when the outcome is likely to go their way. When the outcome has already gone against them--as in tribal resolutions condemning the "Fighting Sioux"--they don't believe in getting Native input.

All in all, this column is a fine example of trying to look at an issue from a multicultural or Native perspective--even if the author isn't Native.

For more on the subject, see Fighting the Fighting Sioux.

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