By Charles E. Trimble
And I don’t object to the adjective “Fighting” as part of the name. A descriptive that would mightily offend me would be, let’s say, the “Whining Sioux,” as the actions of some of our super-sensitive relatives might suggest. But Fighting Sioux is very apropos and quite noble.
We are allowing a sulking, sour minority to stop a nation, the Standing Rock, from exercising its sovereignty by conducting a referendum on the subject. And we are allowing them to demean the results of the referendum conducted by the people at Spirit Lake. All because it would embarrass them if the people, the oyate, voted their right to allow the use of the name. Expressed or not, you got their answer: “Who are the oyate, and what do they know?”
If they get their way and the name is jettisoned, it will not be the end of anybody’s world. However, neither will it make a whit of difference in the physical, mental or emotional welfare of our people. Those children of our tribesmen who walk the UND campus will not breathe any freer than before; they will not have been emancipated.
Instead, they will have hammered into place the first shackle to chains that can hold them back, the chains of victimhood. And victimhood is what this is all about. It is not pride, and it is certainly not a show of confidence in the strength of our cultures.
Why protest mascots? Why protest any form of stereotyping, discrimination, or racism? Heck, why protest any crime committed against your well-being? If you're being raped or pillaged, lie back and enjoy it. According to Trimble, protesting your treatment means putting on the "chains of victimhood."
I'm amazed when a seemingly educated person can't connect the dots between stereotyping and more concrete forms of mistreatment. Really, how many times to I have to quote people saying they think Indians are savages who no longer exist? If several hundred isn't enough, how about a thousand? Ten thousand?
The key question Trimble can't seem to fathom is: Where do people get these ideas from? From watching Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell on C-SPAN? From seeing Sam Bradford win the Heisman Trophy? From reading a novel by Louise Erdrich or Sherman Alexie?
No, they get these ideas from stereotypes, dummy. They see names and images such as the "Fighting Sioux" and conclude they represent reality. Half-naked Lakota warriors used to roam the Plains, but now they're gone. All that's left is a cartoon of what they once were.
And the consequences, which Trimble also can't fathom? Indians are gone, so no need to respect their tribal sovereignty. Indians are gone, so no need to honor their treaties. Indians are gone, so no need to fund the programs they were supposed to get for their land.
Experts get what Trimble doesn't
You can read several dozen experts implying Trimble doesn't know what he's talking about in The Harm of Native Stereotyping: Facts and Evidence. Here are a few representative ones:
I have committed my life to dealing with harmful and negative stereotypes and educating students on my reservation of their culture, traditions, ceremonies and spirituality. As Native people, we experience layer upon layer of stereotypes and images that dehumanize. Eurocentric curriculum and children's literature reinforce stereotypes of the "vanishing Indian," "romantic Indian," "militant Indian" or "drunken Indian." I have seen firsthand how these images, along with poverty or low socioeconomic status, generational trauma and other issues of reservation life contribute to low self-esteem in Native students.
Almost every Indian person I know of has been horribly impacted by the imposition of the all-pervasive "categorical" stereotypical classification upon their basic sense of humanity--so much so that I feel quite safe in declaring that all Indian people suffer a unique form of self-esteem deficiency based solely on the widespread mayhem that Indian stereotypes have caused us since before the Boston Tea Party.
For more of Trimble's apologies for America's history of racism, see Trimble on Victimhood and Trimble to Indians: Get Over It.
Below: "How! Me mighty Sioux, not crybaby victim. Stereotypes no bother'um me. Me live'um in teepee, hunt'um buffalo...no need'um government handouts."