Angst over Indian mascot for North Dakota college

Angst over Indian mascot for North Dakota college

“Criticism of team’s name heats up Dartmouth game”

Dartmouth College’s men’s ice hockey team will face off tonight against the University of North Dakota’s powerhouse Fighting Sioux, but the main drama is unfolding far from the ice.

Debate about whether the Fighting Sioux name is offensive has sparked angst and recriminations from Hanover to Grand Forks, with even North Dakota’s governor, a Dartmouth alumnus, weighing in.

Josie Harper, Dartmouth’s athletic director, wrote a letter to the student newspaper, The Dartmouth, last month about the game, saying: “I must offer a sincere apology to the Native American community and the Dartmouth community as a whole for an event that will understandably offend and hurt people within our community.”

Dartmouth, in Hanover, N.H., has decided to set up a committee that will consider whether the school should refuse to compete against teams that use Native American nicknames and mascots.

The university jettisoned its Indian mascot in the 1970s, while the University of North Dakota staunchly defends its Sioux name. After the National Collegiate Athletic Association last year banned schools that use “hostile or abusive” Native American imagery from hosting postseason championship games, the state of North Dakota sued the NCAA on behalf of the university. The case is still in the courts.

What we don’t see at all in the article is a single quote from any Native American—never mind, any Sioux—on what they think of the mascot. Instead we get the usual white, liberal hand-wringing that is just another form of the usual patronizing condescension. Has anybody considered that maybe some Native Americans might be honored that their culture is held in such high esteem? I don’t see the politically correct hordes rising up to protest the “Fighting Irish” mascot at Notre Dame, concerned at the continuation of such stereotypes.

However, I found the formulation of the defense of the school’s mascot a bit strange too, but that may not be the defender’s fault since it’s not in a direct quote:

Kupchella wrote that the Fighting Sioux image is a respectful one designed by an American Indian artist and cited a poll that found that support for the university among American Indians would not change if the school altered its nickname.

That’s not exactly the same as saying that the same American Indians (ALERT: non-PC name! Call the ombudsman!) actually like the logo. Hypothetically, if support among Indians is already zero and changing the nickname doesn’t result in an uptick in support, then that’s not a ringing endorsement of the status quo.

In the end, I think the reporter just didn’t report the whole story. Instead we got stereotypical boilerplate.

Technorati Tags:, , , , , ,

  • Domenico:

    So you decided to use this particular occasion as an excuse to grind your anti-pc axe—itself a tired and lazy criticism.  Of course, since your only information about what’s gone on at the University of North Dakota are superficial news stories, you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.  But of course offering an informed analysis of this particular issue was never really the point now was it?

    On the outside chance that you’d like to educate yourself about the anti-racist struggles here—led by Native Americans, many of whom have been and are my students—write to me.

  • Whatever I tell you you will most likely ignore anyways, but the facts are that a majority of the Federally Recognized Sioux Tribes have resolutions against the name.  I am Lakota (Sioux, if you prefer), and I am offended by the name.  It isn’t even the name that’s the problem, its the people that “hate” because of the name. If you happen to go on, there is a group that is called “people against people who are against the name.”  So instead of dealing with the issue at hand, we get people who “hate” just because we want the University to follow the path of other Higher Education Institutions, like Dartmouth, to step out of the dark ages and quit using Natives for mascots.  Simple as that.  So as a Lakota, more importantly, as a member of this community, I am against the use of the Fighting Sioux name and logo.

  • Meanwhile, it’s just dandy for Notre Dame to remain the “Fighting Irish.”  I’m trying desperately to get my dander up over such an outrageous, stereotypical depiction of people of Hibernian descent…  Still trying…  still trying…  I give up.

  • Margaret:

    The comparison between the “Fighting Irish” and the “Fighting Sioux” is commonly made, but it’s a superficial comparison that goes to the heart of the matter: history and power.  Notre Dame, last I knew, was a Catholic institution founded and largely controlled by Irish Americans, no?  I’m not much in favor of anyone using any human beings as mascots or nicknames for sports teams, but if a group of people want to stereotype themselves, be my guest.  It’s for the same reason that, while I don’t approve of it, many tribal schools themselves use Indian nicknames of one sort or another.  But, as with the Irish, I figure self-determination trumps my right to tell them what’s best.  Indeed, that’s the source of much of the trouble with white sports fans in North Dakota, who are fond of telling the Indians here “Shut up, will ya, we’re respecting you.”

    The University of North Dakota is a white dominated and controlled, neo-colonialist institution that, with the continued use of “The Fighting Sioux” is simply carrying on the 200-year “tradition” of ethnocide (destruction of a culture) against the indigenous population.  What’s sad about it is that when you ask these people if they know anything at all about the people they claim to be “honoring” you find out they they are—stereotypes aside—almost completely ignorant of them. What they’re really doing, I would assert, is honoring themselves, and their self-satisfied ignorance, not Indians.

    Let me offer a comparison for you to consider that’s much closer to the mark.  How would you feel if the British decided to set up a university in Belfast, had a student body composed of 98% British and 2% Irish, and decided to call its sports teams “The Fighting Irish?”  Would you consider that appropriate and respectful?

    Happy New Year.

  • More BS. Miami University was peer-pressured into changing from the Redskins to the Redhawks (there ain’t no such animal), despite huge support from the Miami tribe. PC is everything; real tradition and longtime relationship with a tribe is nothing.

    But don’t worry. PETA hates having sports teams named for animals. Just you wait. Pretty soon it’ll just be That Team from Over There vs. That Other Team.

  • Well put maureen.  We demean those bears and tigers cuz they are really just gentle animals that want no part of the violence of sports.

    Yeah there were mascots depicting the American Indian disrepectfully.  I think those have been changed.  My take on it now is that so many bored people have the attitude that they can get their name in the news if the find some way to be “offended”.

    Some of the Souix tribes have protested the name.  But to me that fits in my take above.  Most I have met (and being from NoDak, I was friends with many) had no issues with the name.  Mascots come from history or regional influence.  Did the Bison have a vote in Fargo?  I think the American Bison prefer the name Buffalo now, don’t they?

    And another side note.  The University would probably have caved already but they can’t change their name without losing $$$.  A mega rich alumni called Engelstat has somehow threatened to revoke funding if they change the name.

    So $$s still trump the PC crowing.