May 02, 2010

Students talk about "Fighting Sioux"

Voices of American Indian UND students

Seven UND Indian students gathered recently at American Indian Student Services to tell their stories and explain why they resent a nickname and logo revered by so many, including many Indian people.

By Chuck Haga
“I went to a hockey game with some white friends,” he said. “I watched that intro clip, which is supposed to honor us. It was weird because of the environment. There was a guy with a beer in his hand looking at me, and he pointed to the screen as if to say, ‘See? See how we’re honoring you?’”

Crawford said he felt demeaned, not honored. The Fighting Sioux nickname and logo are hurtful, he said, encouraging stereotypes that box Indian students into a false identity. The name and warrior image contribute to an atmosphere on campus that can be “hostile and abusive” to Indian students, he said, as the NCAA alleged in its campaign to ban Indian logos, nicknames and mascots.
And:In two of his cousin’s first classes, teachers tried to open up a dialogue on the logo issue.

“All the students around him wanted to keep the logo,” Crawford said. “Some were angry and said things like, ‘Take away their tuition.’”
And:“I was sitting with friends,” he said. “At the next table, there were five students, and four of them were wearing the Sioux logo. There were cards on the table announcing Wacipi, and one of the guys with the logo took out his keys, shook them as he beat on the table and made whooping sounds.

“They were mocking my culture, a culture they don’t know anything about, and they put me in a situation that was very uncomfortable. My friends asked me, ‘What are you going to do?’ I just sat there and looked down.”
And:“I saw a young woman walking on campus, wearing a shirt that said, ‘You’re in Sioux Country,’” she said. “I wanted to say something. I wanted to tell her what it means to me when I go home and I cross that border and I really am in Sioux country.

“I think I will say something if I see that shirt again. It’s worn with so little knowledge. … It’s like a love-hate relationship people have with us. They have ‘pride’ in American Indians, but they’re always talking about Indians in the past. … They don’t know us.”

What of the two-thirds of voters at Spirit Lake last year who endorsed UND’s use of the Fighting Sioux nickname, and the 1,000-plus people at Standing Rock who have signed a petition asking for a chance to vote?

“The people of Spirit Lake and Standing Rock who don’t have people here on campus—they don’t know about the offensive T-shirts, the signs, the daily stereotypes,” she said.
And:Judging by his own experience, Sage believes that many incidents of bigotry go unreported. “I run a lot. I was out running one day, and a truck came up, slowing down as it approached me. The window was rolled down, and a guy yelled, ‘Go back to the reservation!’

“As they spun off, he pumped his fist and yelled, ‘Go Sioux!’”
And:She was disappointed that so few non-Indian students participated in last month’s Wacipi.

“They had a chance to prove themselves to us, to show they do honor us,” she said. “Instead, they protested,” as nickname supporters held a walk nearby the night of a powwow.
Comment:  Here we see the lies and hypocrisies of mascot supporters spelled out. They know nothing about real Indians and make no effort to learn about them. They imitate and mock real Indians with stereotypical acts. When real Indians speak up, they tell them to go home or threaten to cut off their tuition.

The situation couldn't be any clearer. Mascot love is about asserting mainstream, white power over minorities. "We defeated you, we own you, we can do anything we want to you. We 'honor' you by keeping you around as pet playthings."

Also clear is the ignorance of tribal members on the rez who support the "Fighting Sioux" nickname. They know nothing about the stereotyping and hate talk occurring on campus. Instead they swallow the pro-mascot propaganda hook, line, and sinker. It's an honor because UND says it's an honor, not because anybody actually does anything to honor Indians.

Here's how I translate Sioux-speak into English: "They've kicked us like dogs in the past, but now they're throwing us a bone. We should accept this handout rather than bite the hand that feeds. Please, masters, won't you praise us one more time? We know you're stereotyping us as primitive people of the past, but anything is better than nothing."


For more on the subject, see Fighting the "Fighting Sioux" and Team Names and Mascots.

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