February 15, 2010

"Sioux" vote is "divide and conquer"

Erich Longie, Fort Totten, N.D., column:  Indians should reject 'divide and conquer' tactics

Why don’t Tom Iron and his band of followers get a petition that has some significant and real-life meaning for tribal members? It would be nice if they fought so hard for and carried around a petition for more jobs for tribal members, more housing, better health care.

By Erich Longie
I was against the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo before I attended UND. While a student there, I observed it didn’t take long for Indians indifferent to the nickname to realize what I already knew: that there is no sincerity behind the honor and respect the nickname and logo are supposed to represent.

As a doctoral student at UND, I tried very hard not to be drawn into discussions about the Fighting Sioux issue. I learned early on these types of discussions didn’t resolve anything, so I usually kept quiet when the subject came up. But now and then a comment would be made where I just had to respond.

I remember vividly a class where a couple of American Indians were arguing with several non-Indians about the logo. One non-Indian scornfully asked, “Why do you guys always blame us for something that has happened 150 years ago?” Interrupting him, I replied, “Because you are doing the same things to us today that was done to our ancestors 150 years ago.”

One of the “things” I was talking about is the divide-and-conquer tactic that works so well with some American Indians. In 1887, the Dawes Act was passed because of this tactic. Many of our ancestors were against the act, but unscrupulous officials promised more annuities, education and so on to gain support. This divided our ancestors.
And:One aspect bothers me most with divisive strategy: Tribal members have to know full well that they are being patronized; yet, they choose to cooperate with the Ralph Engelstad Arena and other supporters of the nickname.

It is amazing how people can disguise their perception of the truth. What do they expect to gain? Paid tuition for their spouses, children and grandchildren? Free Fighting Sioux shiny leather jackets? A chance to stay in a nice hotel room and get a significant travel allowance?

Is this why they fail to see—or worse, choose to ignore—how the issue is dividing people from and within respective tribes?

The old “divide and conquer” mentality is as active today as it was 150 years ago.
Comment:  Good points by Longie.

He doesn't elaborate on the point in the subhead, but consider: Usually mascot supporters whine about mascot foes wasting time when they should be addressing more important issues. Now the shoe's on the other foot. What's the defenders' excuse for ignoring jobs, housing, and healthcare to focus on the "Fighting Sioux" nickname?

I can defend the importance of eliminating Native stereotypes. Can they defend the importance of retaining such stereotypes? I doubt it, but let's see them try.

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

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