By Valerie Richardson
A group of Spirit Lake Sioux won a temporary restraining order last week to stop the North Dakota University System from retiring the nickname and logo, one of the last in the country associated with an American Indian tribe. A hearing for a preliminary injunction is slated for Dec. 9 in Ramsey County District Court in Devils Lake, N.D.
Most such university team names have been abandoned in the face of criticism that they were offensive or derogatory, but that view isn't the only one in Indian country. Some tribal members take pride in their association with the Fighting Sioux and worry that eliminating the moniker "will cause isolation and a diminishing of public interest, knowledge and respect for Sioux history," according to the complaint.
How stupid is this claim? Here's a clue. The press frequently covers Sioux-related subjects--for instance, poverty, crime, and (the lack of) healthcare on the rez. Even in Newspaper Rock's limited area of pop culture, we talk about sweat lodge abuses, the SCALPED comic book, Indian chief wine holders, museum exhibits, old Western films, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and on and on.
If that isn't enough, the state is named for the Dakota people. And most Indian appearances in the media--for instance, the recent tribal summit--include Plains chiefs and tipis. If Americans ever forget Indians, the ubiquitous Sioux stereotypes will be the last thing they remember.
For more on the Fighting Sioux, see State Board Postpones "Sioux" Decision and Fighting Sioux = Fraidy Cats.