The number of American Indian students at UND is down, although not by much, said Leigh Jeanotte, director of the American Indian Center at UND. But the numbers really should be increasing because UND's efforts to recruit American Indians are intense. The university has full-time recruiters as well as top-notch programs geared specifically for American Indians. Most of these programs, by the way, are federally funded.
I believe the decline in the number of Indian students is due in part to UND's nickname issue. So, I was a little concerned when a recent discussion among Grand Forks business leaders about UND's bigger problem of declining enrollment didn't mention the divisive nickname issue.
I can personally vouch for the negative atmosphere in our community, based on e-mails I've received, personal incidents and anecdotal information from students. I also know that the “Fighting Sioux” nickname seems to bring out the worst in some members of our communities. Who wants to spend time in a negative atmosphere?
In a study published in a 2007 issue of Sociology of Sport Journal, UND graduate Dana Williams concluded that American Indian students may start out at UND with faces glowing from all the new and great things they see here. But then, those students' support for the nickname tends to decrease the longer they attend UND, the study found.
Unfortunately, if they'd read some of the comments I mentioned or listen to students who attend or have attended UND, they'd realize--as have many of UND's American Indians--that some members of the community do not seeing today's Lakota and Dakota as warriors.
It is the warriors of the 1800s--who fought for their lives, rode the Plains and took on all comers--who probably are the “Fighting Sioux” of the nickname. As for today's Indians, the comments on the Internet use terms such as lazy, alcoholic and poverty-stricken when referring to today's tribes.