Those fighting Sioux nickname lose sight of most Indian views
Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune
[...] In 1930, UND adopted a more formidable name -- the Sioux -- and its teams later became the Fighting Sioux. In 1968, says Johnson, the Grand Forks Herald reported that a delegation from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation traveled to UND to "adopt" its president into the tribe and to give UND the right to use the name for its athletic teams.
In 2005, however, the NCAA banned schools from using nicknames and images it deems "hostile and abusive" in postseason play. UND was on the list. Last week, the school sought a temporary injunction, which was granted Saturday night, ahead of the upcoming Division II football playoffs. Without it, the UND team wouldn't be able to host playoff games or use the nickname or logo on uniforms or in associated athletic program activities.
Never mind that a well-known Indian artist designed the UND logo of a proud Sioux warrior. Never mind that this image resembles the stately Indian on U.S. "buffalo" nickels, and on North
Dakota's highway patrol cars and highway signs. Never mind that sports teams choose names that symbolize what they honor -- courage on the battlefield -- not what they mock or despise. The forces of political correctness have embraced this latest victim-creating issue and won't let it go.
Today some folks insist, with tortured logic, that the Fighting Sioux name is racist and derogatory. More than 100 faculty members (who else?) have expressed their righteous indignation by signing a petition, and many won't even enter UND's Ralph Engelstad Arena, where the team logo is prominently displayed. Although North Dakota's Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe has approved UND's use of the name, Indian bodies such as the Standing Rock Tribal Council have passed resolutions asking UND to reject it.
But Archie Fool Bear, chair of the Standing Rock judicial committee, says his tribe's leadership doesn't represent the vast majority of tribal members.
Fool Bear himself voted for such a resolution in 2005. "They told us just negative things -- that UND was a racist place," he explains. Now, he says, he believes that he and others were fed a bill of goods.
"When I went around to my constituents on the reservation," says Fool Bear, "a majority of people said, 'Why can't we vote on it?' "Most tribal members would support the name if they got the chance," adds Joe White Mountain, another committee member.
That would be consistent with Indians' views nationally. In a 2002 Sports Illustrated poll, 81 percent of Native American respondents said no when asked whether high school and college teams should stop using Indian nicknames.
Members of the Standing Rock judicial committee visited UND early in 2006 to assess the situation for themselves. "We spoke to everyone, from students on the street to people at the gas station," says Fool Bear. "Not one gave us any evidence of racism. We went to a hockey game, and they talked about the courage and integrity of the Sioux people. We looked at each other like, 'Wow, we don't even honor our Sioux warriors or veterans like this on the reservation.' "
White Mountain recalls the committee's meeting with a UND group that opposes the name. "I asked them, 'What tribe do you belong to?' " he says. "Not one was a Sioux Indian."This group insisted that the name promotes racism on campus," adds Fool Bear. "I told them, 'Put any instances of abuse in writing.' Today, I'm still waiting -- I haven't gotten one complaint."
If anything is "hostile and abusive" at UND, it's the way that some activists treat Indian students who take a different view.
"Our young people go there to get an education," says Fool Bear. "When they arrive, they're asked, 'What do you think of the logo?' If they have no problem with it, they are badgered and harassed for four years."
Fool Bear and others are now trying to get the Tribal Council resolution rescinded. They point out that UND has a zero-tolerance policy on racism, and that it makes Indian education a top priority, with more than 30 programs to support its Indian students. The "Indians into Medicine" program, for example, has generated 20 percent of all the American Indian doctors in the United States, according to school officials.
Marc Ranfranz, a 2004 UND grad who played goalie for the hockey team and who is Sioux, says he strongly supports the team name. "You feel so good being Sioux -- the energy that goes through your body when you walk in the rink and see the logo all over," he recalls. "I think of it every day, how good it was to throw on the jersey and play for the Fighting Sioux. It made you want to strive even harder to reach your goal -- to make everybody with a stake in the logo proud." Star Tribune