Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Searching for Answers: Tribal Nicknames and Logos

Being that I am a student at the University of North Dakota (UND), I am very well acquainted with the 'Fighting Sioux' nickname/logo lawsuit. It's kind of a big ordeal here on campus, and other campuses nation-wide too. I just wanted to chime in with my 2cents and see what the readers think about it as well.

So most of you probably already know that UND has sued the NCAA to keep the nickname & logo. The lawsuit is just sort of beginning to heat up, although not expected to fully start until December 10th. Just 2 days ago confidential documents in regards to the NCAA's 2006 policy on American Indian nicknames and imagery were decided to remain sealed.

This recent happening, though the info given by the media is vague, gives me hope. See, I am in favor of tribal logos and nicknames if used respectfully. I feel like UND has definitely used the nickname respectfully in its tenure. UND has a beautiful logo designed by a respected American Indian artist and we use the nickname with consummate respect – expecting and getting respect for the Sioux culture from our fans. I also would like to point out that we do not do tomahawk chops, we do not have white guys painted up like Indians, and our fans do not do Indian chants.

The NCAA continues to object to our "mascot and logo". They apparently are unaware that we do not have a mascot, and the logo was designed by an American Indian. At major sporting events a short film displaying the rich culture and tradition of the Sioux Indians and UND's reasoning behind the nickname is played - in which fans respectfully stand and cheer for.

Some may also attack the "Sioux" aspect of the nickname as it translates to "Snake". Many view Sioux to be a derogatory name that was originally used by white settlers. Well, when UND decided to switch over from the flickertails to the Fighting Sioux in the 1930s why wasn't it a problem? UND obviously wouldn't make the change then if there was any disagreement or animosity towards it. The nickname hasn't changed, so why is it all-of-a-sudden a problem now?

UND isn't the only University that's had this issue (obviously). To name a few others: Florida State University (Seminole), Bradley University (Braves), Utah University (Utes), and Illinois University (Fighting Illini) have been under relatively recent fire. The only problem is that a medium-sized University like UND can't simply pay their way out of a problem like this. In my opinion the NCAA is going after UND so harshly so that they can appear to be "sitting on the fence" on the issue. They want to show their commitment to the issue. They're using their zeal in going after UND to mask their leniency with bigger-market teams that make the NCAA more money like the Florida Seminoles, etc. Well, I feel like this is unfair and if they're going to go after UND then they need to go after the big schools this intensely also.

The nickname fiasco also affects UND more harshly than other schools in my opinion. First off the Ralph Engelstad Arena would need much work if we would lose the nickname lawsuit (not to mention the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center as well). The $104+ million dollar facility features over 2,200 Logos (many of which are engravings and marble works). This would be no simple/cheap task to fix. Also not being allowed to host playoffs would affect UND more than other schools. Granted, we are moving D1 and it will be less of a factor, however it still applies to Men's and Women's Hockey (UND's major attraction) and could become a factor again in other sports in 2012.

This is a little off the subject but it also makes no sense to me that a school like the University of Minnesota will publicly refuse to play UND in football or basketball next year because of it's "nickname and logo issue". However, the Gophers will continue to play other teams with Indian names. In November, the men’s basketball team will take on the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Florida State Seminoles. (FSU’s mascot is a white guy in full war paint who brandishes a spear on horseback.) In December, the Gophers women’s basketball team will meet the Utah Utes. These schools, unlike UND, have received the blessing of the NCAA to keep their Indian team names. U of M however, will still play UND in hockey because it's D1 and they make a lot of money off the rivalry.

Basically, I could go endlessly on the issue and a plethora of information can be found online. I personally feel like the issue needs to come to a decisive and permanent end. The issue is divisive in campus and within the university and should be put to rest. I feel like the NCAA and other members need to just get over it. Where does it stop? What about the Fighting Irish? What about a team like the Bison? Will their nickname be under fire from PETA in 10 years?

I feel like UND deserves to be allowed to keep the nickname and logo, in that they use it in the utmost respect (probably more respectfully than schools who have been allowed to keep their nickname *COUGH* FSU). Obviously I'm biased because I'm a student here, but I want to know what your feelings are on the issue.


Stefan Ming said...

Minnesota only plays UND in hockey because of conference affiliation. Florida St., CMU, etc get to keep their logo/mascot because of their friendly ties to their local tribes. They both have good relationships with them. CMU is located on a Native American Reservation and the Chippewas there basically ran the NCAA out of Mt. Pleasant.

Also, I don't know if the nickname can even be used with any respect at all. Fighting Sioux is derogatory and makes the tribes look like savages. It's not representing them respectfully.

Anonymous said...

Fighting Irish is irrelevant to the Fighting Sioux. Irish isn't derogatory, Sioux is.

stephen a said...

That would be so dumb if we had to change the nickname. Last I checked we didn't have someone riding around a horse sticking a spear into midfield before every home football game. And we only have the logo on one jersey.

twins15 said...

Is it an offensive nickname? Maybe. It's not offensive to me, but I'm not exactly the best sample. But you have touched on the issue I feel is most in our favor... why drop the issue with the Seminoles and Fighting Illini but continue to pursue the Fighting Sioux? I get that there is some tribe support, but it just seems like a double standard by the NCAA. Which they are sorta famous for.

grittysquirrels said...

Precisely. Also the fact that the NCAA didn't want the documents of their 2006 nickname policy/ban aired out (by wanting to chose to keep the documents sealed 2 days ago) makes me think that this is swinging in out favor a bit.

The NCAA doesn't want all their dirty laundry aired out in court. Personally i see this really dragging out. I think you can expect the NCAA to appeal for the removal of judge jahnke next.

erin said...

You're a Caucasian saying that you think a Native American logo is being used respectfully. Why don't you ask a Native American how respectful they think the logo is? Just because one Native American designed the logo doesn't mean that the majority of Native Americans think it's respectful.

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grittysquirrels said...

Actually erin,
Most of the hell raised has been done by the NCAA. It's my impression that the majority definitely doesn't object to the logo/nickname. In UND's case the NCAA stirred the whole thing up and received backing and support from SOME tribal members.

Anonymous said...

It's about 50/50 on Native Americans supporting and not supporting the logo. UND doesn't give anything back to the Spirit Lake Reservation which is why there is a bigger uproar with Native Americans in general and the NCAA then with they are with FSU, CMU, Illinois, etc...

Joey K. said...

You're absolutely right. Notre Dame's nickname and mascot is way more offensive. They have a drunk leprauchan running around and their mascot depicts a drunken Irishmen.

Anonymous said...

I believe your all missing one important thing. Shouldn't it be up to the Lakota,Dakota, Nakota, whether or not UND uses the name? In responses by grittysquirrels he made some mistatements. 1. What kind of relationship if any did UND have with North Dakota tribes in 1913? The answer is none what so ever. 2.The so called "Sioux" who really are Lakota, Dakota, Nakota have all voted against the logo, and it hasn't just come up. Tribes have been fighting this mascot issue since the 1960's; the NCAA turned a blind eye until the Washington Redskins were successfully sued, then they started having second thoughts. I was present when UND had decided to change the name until the rich racist Engelstad threatend to pull his money if they changed the name. So grittysquirrels, you assumed wrong, it wasn't the Indians who didn't care, it was UND who's morales became dictated by hundreds of millions of dollars.
And one last thing, sioux is from the Ojibwe word Ndewiisiou, which was our way of putting down the Dakota as they were our enemies at the time. Ndewiisiou means "Snake in the grass", which is not very respectable. The French, like most Europeans couldn't remember exactly how we Ojibwe used the term shortened it to the present use of "Sioux" which yes does mean snake, but in a disrespectful manner.
Isn't knowledge and truth a wonderful thing? Ya'll have a good day now yahear.