May 12, 2014

"Siouxper Drunk" t-shirts at UND

Writer Ruth Hopkins was the first to flag this incident. It ended up getting covered by the media nationwide:

‘Siouxper Drunk’ Shirts Worn at the University of North Dakota’s Springfest

By Ruth HopkinsOn Saturday, May 10, 2014, a Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota man posted this picture to my Facebook wall:The photo was taken at the University of North Dakota’s Springfest earlier that same day. In it, non-Native UND students are wearing shirts that say ‘Siouxper Drunk.’ Beneath it, a stereotypical ‘Indian head’ reminiscent of the retired Fighting Sioux logo is pictured drinking from a beer bong. What followed the post were a string of comments from understandably infuriated Natives, many of whom were from the Spirit Lake Nation, the Dakota Tribe located closest to the UND campus.And:The tiny town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, located just over the border from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, rakes in millions of dollars for beer companies every year by profiting off the misery of Lakota addicted to alcohol. These people who are sick live short lives full of pain and suffering. Families are destroyed. Now tell me again, how is ‘Siouxper Drunk’ funny?

The fact that a whole group of students were able to walk around UND’s Springfest in ‘Siouxper Drunk’ t-shirts without being stopped speaks volumes. Why would faculty, staff, students, and community members choose to ignore such blatant racism? Didn’t anyone have the good sense to feel embarrassed or ashamed of such a discriminatory display? By allowing such open, aggressive hostility against Natives, you are complicit. If you disapprove of such behavior, stand up and be counted.
Hopkins also tweeted the following:

Helena @_RuthHopkins May 10
'Siouxper Drunk' t-shirts depict one of the worst, most harmful stereotypes about Native people that there is. #UND #Appropriation #Racism

Helena @_RuthHopkins May 10
There's beer companies making millions thru the tiny rez border town of Whiteclay off the misery of Natives. How is 'Siouxper Drunk' funny?

Helena @_RuthHopkins May 10
Europeans introduced alcohol to the Indigenous population in America. It was used to subdue & assimilate Natives. #UNDSiouxperDrunk #racism

Helena @_RuthHopkins May 10
Local North Dakota media refuses to run posts or a story about the racist 'Siouxper Drunk' tees worn at UND's Springfest. #Complicit

Helena @_RuthHopkins May 10
Native mascots personify the widespread systemic racism against Native people that still prevails in the subconscious of western society.

Helena @_RuthHopkins May 10
#UND, an apology for allowing 'Siouxper Drunk' tees to be worn at your Springfest isn't good enough. Implement a zero tolerance policy.

Media coverage takes off

Sometimes these protests take off in the media and sometimes they don't. This one did. The following was one of the earliest reports on the story:

UND Students Wear "Siouxper Drunk" Shirts to SpringfestA group of students at the University of North Dakota are catching grief for wearing shirts that, some say, display "blatant racism." Several photos of the t-shirts have been making the rounds on social media following this weekend's Springfest at UND.

The group photo shows ten students in their black, green and white shirts. The shirts say "Siouxper Drunk" with a logo underneath, similar to the retired Fighting Sioux logo, pictured drinking from a beer bong. Prior to Springfest, someone in the group even tweets "Our Springfest shirts will make the news I just know it lol."

UND student, Frank Sage says that many students coming into Indian Student Services on Monday were upset by the incident. Sage says there was no excuse for it. He called it very degrading and demeaning. We are still waiting for comment from UND Administration on whether the students involved in the incident could face any disciplinary action.

A blog on "" says, "The 'Drunken Indian' caricature is one of the worst stereotypes about Native people that there is." Writer Ruth Hopkins goes on to say, "Alcoholism is a serious issue in Indian country and it's nothing to laugh about." She cites a CDC statistic that liver disease and cirrhosis is the #5 cause of death among Native Americans and says 1 in 10 Native American deaths are alcohol-related.

People on social media are not only bothered by the student's choice to wear the shirts, but are also coming down on, which is apparently where the shirts were made. CustomInk released the following statement on Monday:

"We are very sorry about this offensive design. CustomInk's business is focused on bringing people together in positive ways. We handle hundreds of thousands of custom t-shirt designs each year and have people review them to catch problematic content, including anything that's racially or ethnically objectionable, but we missed this one. We apologize for any pain or offense caused by this shirt, and we will continue to improve our review processes to make them better." --CustomInk
UND president condemns T-shirts with Indian head

By Associated PressYoung people who wore T-shirts with a caricature of the University of North Dakota’s former Indian head logo drinking out of a beer bong perpetuated a derogatory and harmful stereotype of American Indians and should not be accepted, the school’s president said Monday.

The shirts that were stamped with the words “Siouxper Drunk” apparently were worn for an annual spring party that attracts students and others and is not associated with the university. Kelley said he was appalled by “the poor judgment and lack of understanding” that led people to create and wear the shirts.

“The message on the shirts demonstrated an unacceptable lack of sensitivity and a complete lack of respect for American Indians and all members of the community,” Kelley said in a statement.
And more coverage on some widely-read sites:

Univ. of North Dakota students mock Native Americans with ‘Siouxper Drunk’ T-shirts

North Dakota students offend with racist “Siouxper Drunk” T-shirts

North Dakota Students' "Siouxper Drunk" Shirts Are Super Racist

No comments: