Friday, October 26, 2007

More Indian Sport News: University of North Dakota

UPDATE: Yes, Clearly I Got the Wrong School. The dangers of writing on the fly are manifest. I've made the changes, and thanks to all you kindly commentors who pointed the error with such sensitivity.

In what seems like a shockingly fairminded decision, a court settlement has given North Dakota three years to get the approval of the Sioux tribes in the state to agree to the nickname "The Fighting Sioux".

If the college can't get them, then the nickname must go, or UND will face serious NCAA sanctions.

It seems quite unlikely, outside of a huge payout to the tribes (even if they would go for that, which is also unlikely) that the name will be around past 2011. There just are not too many scenarios in which both Spirit Lake Nation and Standing Rock go along with it. Hell, the Standing Rock reservation isn't too crazy about the word Sioux to begin with. I quote their front page on their website:

The people of these nations are often called "Sioux", a term that dates back to the seventeenth century when the people were living in the Great Lakes area. The Ojibwa called the Lakota and Dakota "Nadouwesou" meaning "adders." This term, shortened and corrupted by French traders, resulted in retention of the last syllable as "Sioux."

I've heard the word translated as "snakes in the grass." Obviously, it isn't a compliment, either way. Many Sioux would prefer to be called Lakota or Dakota. And I doubt they are looking the University of North Dakota to become the Fighting Lakotas.

Because not mentioned in this story thus far, and an element that is important, is that the state of the art arena on the UND campus is named after a benefactor, an alumni, who happened to be a horrible racist, and the arena was designed purposefully to force the school to keep the mascot.

Ralph Engelstad was profiled by our own Garwood B. Jones, when he nominated Ralphie for our Sports Legion of Doom. It bears repeating that the man whose name graces the arena at North Dakota did this: "On April 20th in 1986 and 1988, he hosted birthday parties for Adolf Hitler at his casino in Las Vegas which featured bartenders in T-shirts reading "Adolf Hitler — European tour 1939-45". (source: Wikipedia)

It isn't hard to imagine that the American Indian tribes anywhere in the world will have a hard time believing that Ralph Engelstad was trying to honor them when he filled his arena with over 2000 Fighting Sioux images, and threatened to withdraw funding when the idea of a mascot name change was first floated. You see, Hitler fetishists don't have a lot of credibility amongst our Native American population. Or amongst our White Population, though a $100 million dollar arena in the middle of Bumfuck, NDAK will make White People put aside their principles.

The agreement reached today seems to suggest that the NCAA would be willing to look the other way when it comes to the more expensively lodged mascot symbols--the goal would be to either get the Sioux's approval, or change the name, and cover up the more prominent Fighting Sioux regalia.

Again, this seems remarkably fair-minded. I guess pussy little Dan Snyder can praise his lucky stars that his much more offensive Redskins don't have any Native American reservations in their bailiwick. This sort of fair-minded concept would make him upset, and he would certainly stamp his tiny feet. Because Dan Snyder is a pussy.


Andrew Wice said...

Good stuff, chap. I just have a couple points, and I'm not talking about my nips.

Could North Dakota State, since their state is named after a specific tribe, ever have any name that doesn't reflect an Amerindian influence? Is that necessarily the problem, or is it only when the Amerindian aspect is offensively marketed?

It seems to me that the most offensive part of "Fighting Sioux" is that Sioux isn't their tribe. If they don't call themselves Sioux, which seems like a fairly bastardized term, then that should be stricken first. "Fighting" seems ok, especially for a football and hockey team. Soccer and field hockey, not so much.

The term "Redskin" may have originated with the Native American population itself, and there is evidence they differentiated tribes by redskin, yellowskin, etc. I'm not going to argue with whether or not Indians find that term perjorative.

I'm trying to zero in on the nomenclature line between honor and shame. At which point along the scale does something become racist?

Big Blue Monkey said...

Indians find "Redskin" perjorative. At least, the vast majority do.

We aren't 100% clear on the origin of the word, "nigger", either, and that is considered pretty insulting, yeah?

Of course, words do not exist in a vacuum, their meaning can change depending on who is speaking them. The fact that Ralph Englestad was a huge racist, and his name is honored in the same building that American Indians are "honored" may make many a people look twice.

To answer your question, somewhat: One of the Sioux reservations has as their mascot, "The Indians". Their players, their high school, all of their supporters are American Indians. Therefore, not offensive.

No tribe that I know of translates the name they call themselves Redskins. The Washington Redskins are not and have never been owned, operated or managed by American Indians.

If Big Daddy Kane walked up to you out of nowhere, and said, "You're my nigger", you would probably take that as a compliment. If you walked up to him, and said that to him, you'd probably get your ass kicked.

Context matters. Even if different Indian tribes engaged in some skin-based identification (which I have read exactly Zero Evidence to support) it would not make it OK for white folks to address them by those terms. DUH.

Big Blue Monkey said...

And you do have weird pointy nipples.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dumbasses...

Its the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, not the North Dakota State Bison.

Do some Fact checking, idiots!

Anonymous said...

Agreed...Cripes look at Wikipedia and you'd get the school names right.

I thought this article was about how Bison was negative for Indians. I'm disappointed that I didn't get to hear that argument.

Andrew Wice said...

Shut up you drunky Laplander. Go ride a reindeer.

MattR said...

Very late to the party, but doesn't this quote from the article,
North Dakota's settlement specified that any waiver granted the school after tribal approval of its "Fighting Sioux" nickname would be rescinded if either tribe withdraws its endorsement.

If the nickname is changed, the university would have to remove most of the Indian imagery on its campus in Grand Forks. The settlement would allow it to keep historical items and items embedded in architecture.

UND's $104 million, 400,000-square-foot Ralph Engelstad Arena has been center stage in the mascot debate. Home to the school's powerhouse hockey team, it contains more than 2,000 Fighting Sioux logos including a 30-foot image imbedded in the granite floor of the grand entrance hallway.

point towards a loophole regarding the Engelstad Arena since they could claim all the items were embedded in the architecture of the arena. Of course, this may very well have been done on purpose as a compromise to get the sides to come to an agreement.

Big Blue Monkey said...

MattR, is it a loophole, crafted to counteract the evil that was Ralph Engelstad. His plan was to make it too damn expensive to get rid of his emblems.

Under the agreement, the embedded shit would be covered up.

It isn't ideal, but given Engelstad's singular drive in keeping the Indians in their place, the deal is probably the best thing they could do.

Even agreeing to the stipulations risks the Engelstad Trust razing the entire building. I imagine the arena will be heavily carpeted soon.