May 15, 2009

Reactions to "Fighting Sioux" decision

Talk on the Street:  UND nicknameAmy Ferguson

We want to use the nickname because it’s something we’re proud of. We want to keep Native American history alive. The Sioux have always been known as courageous warriors. That’s what we’re trying to convey; we’re fighters, we’re strong, we go after what we believe in.
Yes, that's the positive spin. The negative spin is that the Sioux are still known as courageous warriors rather than anything else. In other words, the stereotype locks them in time like a caveman on ice.

Here's an a comment on Facebook and my response:I mean absolutely no disrespect, but could someone explain to me how "Fighting Sioux" is even slightly offensive, to anyone? I'm not a history major by any means, but weren't the Sioux known to be very honorable warriors? How is that a bad thing? Again, please don't take offense to this, I'm just posing the question.Being a "fighting" warrior is a one-dimensional caricature of a modern Lakota or Sioux person. It portrays Indians as people of the past, still acting like the primitive "savages" in countless old Westerns. It tells us nothing about today's Indians; in fact, it obscures the fact that they're complex, multifaceted people.

'I hate to see it go'

Sioux players are disappointed, but not totally surprised by the announcement.

By Kevin Fee“We kind of knew it was coming; we didn’t know when,” UND linebacker Ryan Kasowski said. “We pride ourselves on being the Sioux. We take a lot of pride in that nickname.

“For some of us, no matter what they do, we’re always going to be Sioux.”

UND football safety Joel Schwenzfeier says Sioux players had been warned that the nickname-logo could be retired. He had witnessed some of the Sioux gear, such as travel sweats and workout uniforms, being issued without the logo and nickname on it.

And the Sioux football jerseys won’t have the logo on them next fall.

“We’ve kind of had to deal with it our whole time here, so we’ve kind of adapted, adjusted,” Schwenzfeier said. “Initially, it’s going to be tough. I think eventually it will bury itself in the ground.”

He says the nickname is used with respect.

“It’s never used as a negative term,” he said. “It’s usually the other teams or other institutions that slander it.”
Kasowski has a point, though he probably doesn't realize it. He can think of himself as a brave "Sioux" warrior with or without the name.

It's ridiculous to think the name creates the warrior attributes in UND's players. Rather, the players imagine themselves as warriors and then link the feelings back to the name. In other words, the name is an ex post facto justification for the team's warrior mentality.

Schwenzfeier also has a point: that UND eventually will forget about their mascot worship. But it's funny to hear him talk as if there's been a death in the family. It's a freakin' sports name, people. UND could eliminate its entire sports program and it would have no consequences for the rest of the world.

But his point about other people slandering Indians is really the activists' point. The NCAA didn't rule that the nickname itself was "hostile and abusive." It ruled that it created a "hostile and abusive" environment. That includes other teams insulting the Fighting Sioux even if UND doesn't.

This hostility and abusiveness is pretty much inherent in the idea of using living people as sports mascots. People are going to commercialize the name. They're going to insult it. They're going to step on it and spill drinks on it. In short, they're going to trivialize real people by making them into a team's plaything--the equivalent of a pet poodle or Oscar Mayer wiener.

Some history should make this attitude clear. Until recently, most schools with mascots had cringe-inducing logos and performing "Indians" with "funny" names. That they changed these things is good, but the past tells the tale. Most Indian mascots were created to be clownish cartoons, not revered symbols of respect and honor. People emphasized the "respect and honor" argument only after their previous rationalizations failed.

Family of Ralph Engelstad 'deeply disappointed' by 'lack of conviction'

The Ralph Engelstad family is upset with the State Board of Higher Education’s decision to accelerate the deadline for tribal approval of UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname, according to a statement the family’s foundation issued Friday.The Ralph Engelstad family is upset with the North Dakota Board of Higher Education’s decision to accelerate the deadline for tribal approval of UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname, according to a statement the family’s foundation issued Friday.

"I am deeply disappointed that the State Board and President Kelley are not committed to retaining the Fighting Sioux name and logo," said Kris Engelstad McGarry, daughter of the builder of Ralph Engelstad Arena on campus. "However I can't say that I’m surprised by their lack of conviction. This is a sad day for North Dakota."
Hitler fans such as Engelstad should know about conviction. Round up those Fighting Sioux and keep 'em on the rez, boys!

Boo-hoo, Engelstad family. Don't cry too much on the way to the bank. Looks like the mascot foes' convictions proved to be strong than your money convictions.

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

Below:  The big-nosed Indian chief who represented UND until recently.

1 comment:

dmarks said...

They should look at how the Central Michigan University "Chippewas" issue was handled.