Racism, Ra-Ra!
October 8, 2000 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Racism, Ra-Ra! The real "fighting Sioux" in North Dakota are the ones fighting racism. You'd think an institution of higher learning would be sensitive to issues like racial genocide, but apparently not. The Sioux could use your support.
posted by Zeldman (17 comments total)
institution of higer learning, or training ground for rabidly competitive, win at all costs, testosterone-spewing sports chumps? i think the answer is clear. [quonsar exits to the stirring sounds of the revisionist childhood propoganda anthem "this land is my land, this land is your land, this land was made for you and me..."]
posted by quonsar at 9:05 AM on October 8, 2000

jeffrey the native symbol next to the swastika and the other flag (the general lee rides again? - wasn't that painted on the dukes car?) i digress, the native symbol looks alot like the icon mohawk oil uses on their gas station signage up here in canada. what's the deal? sorry i don't get it.
posted by daddyray at 9:31 AM on October 8, 2000

i didn't design the site; the Sioux Indians did. it's not the clearest piece of information design ever put online, but if you spend a few moments on the site, you'll get it.

the college football team is the Fighting Sioux. the mascot is a hooknosed little Indian. the rival football team makes and sells jerseys and tee shirts that depict a little Sioux Indian sexually servicing the mascot of their team. i'm not making any of this up; it is all on the site.

imagine the Battling Jews or the Angry Blacks and you have an idea of what these people are up against. the Sioux are descended from the survivors of racial genocide. they are being treated as inhuman cartoon characters by the local state-funded University. it's grotesque, dehumanizing racial and cultural stereotyping, and it's appalling that this continues into the 21st Century.
posted by Zeldman at 11:26 AM on October 8, 2000

the deal is that the sioux object to having their name co-opted by largely white institution to promote sports. they feel it adds to already prevalent racism, and that it devalues their culture and heritage.

additionally, "sioux" (in reference to various sports teams) is used in a derogatory way by both opposing teams and by UND students themselves. read a brief history from the Native American point of view.

note the frequent use of the phrase "sioux suck" (and accompanying graphics and the disrespect of the UND student body themselves, to wit:

"In February 1972, UND decided to hold the King Kold Karnival, a weekend-long outdoor carnival with ice sculptures, games, prizes and the like. Several fraternities and sororities created offensive sculptures. The Sigma Nu fraternity created a bare-breasted woman with brown paint thrown across its chest with the words "Lik em Sioux" posted at the bottom. UNDIA members asked UND Administration on two occasions to have the offensive sculptures removed, but no action was taken."

posted by rebeccablood at 11:29 AM on October 8, 2000

Appalling, but not too surprising. I recently drove through South Dakota and there is no doubt to it's conservative nature. There were Pat Buchanan radio ads on the radio and "Abortion ends life" and "South Dakota rejects animal activists.." billboards down I 90.

Native American heritage seems a tourist commodity to most there. The poor excuse of tradition and pride over the deep feelings of the Sioux shows a huge mental gap in priorities.

posted by john at 12:01 PM on October 8, 2000

North Dakota is by far the most racist state I’ve lived in. Blatant racism, like “humorous” radio shows which solely consist of bashing Native Americans living there, was permssive.

Changing the mascot and name won’t change perceptions up there, but it’ a step worth taking. Espically since the tribe representation has asked for a name change. What’s the hold-up?

(If I’m not mistaken, the state’s only medical school is at UND.)
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:15 PM on October 8, 2000

What's up with these fiesty injuns? Don't they like being revered as brutal savages?

Speaking of which, I was rather dissapointed that the Indians didn't make the playoffs.

Still, I'm hopeful that the Blackhawks will win the stanley cup this year.

Gotta go - the Redskins and the Chiefs are playing!
posted by aladfar at 1:37 PM on October 8, 2000

aldafar's point that this institutionalized "humorous" racism is everywhere — not just in North Dakota — does not diminish its offensiveness. it should be obliterated everywhere. meantime, the Sioux are demanding that it be removed from the local University, and the University is taking no action.

i agree that people won't stop being racist just because a team's name is changed. but it sure couldn't hurt. the institutional promotion of racism is different than the ignorance of an individual. and the fewer of these "humorous" team names we have, the less we foster an environment where racism is actively encouraged.

i'm opposed to knee-jerk political correctness, which is often ridiculous. but i'm even more opposed to racism and its continuance by institutions too stupid to realize the active evil they are passively promoting.
posted by Zeldman at 1:53 PM on October 8, 2000

Lest I be misinterpreted, I agree with Zeldman 100% - racism in any form should never be tolerated.

It's just that statements about native americans are very much ingrained in our culture - when does it cross the line? I live in Chicago, Illinois; a city named after a native american phrase in a state named after the tribe forced off of the land they once inhabited. Can there be anything more offensive than this? What of Iowa, Florida, Ohio and the like?

What of archetypes like the wooden indian, that fixture of tobacco stores and bars across the country?

In his latest film, Spike Lee addresses some of these issues as they relate to african americans - actors in blackface, etc.

Who will do the same for native americans?

posted by aladfar at 3:28 PM on October 8, 2000

How come no one ever mention's the Fighting (Drunk) Irish? I have never met an Irishman (or woman) that had a problem with that little stereotype (myself included). What about the paddy wagon, or Lucky Charms for that matter?

I'm not completely serious, not even close, but I still think it worth discussing why one group is bothered and, in the case of ND, the other so proud.

Just to clarify, (read: covering my ass) I don't want to stir the pot. The difference fascinates me.
posted by Mick at 3:54 PM on October 8, 2000

I think one key difference is that while the irish were subjected to a lot of prejudice during the 1800s (which I believe is a time during which they were arriving here in large numbers) they have since been completely assimilated into the ruling class. furthemore, they were never actually targeted for genocide by the people in power here.

I guess the salient point here for me (and I thought of this example, too, and wondered what the difference is) is that the sioux object to the use of the name (and native americans across the country object to the other indian sports mascots as well) and the irish don't seem to be offended.

for me, it comes down to respect. if I call you by a term or nickname and you tell me that it offends you, I think that I need to stop calling you that. if I have an ounce of creativity I can think of another moniker for you.

in the same way, if my friend john objects to my use of his name to describe the toilet, I'd have to be an insensitive oaf (at best) to continue using that term in his presence.

posted by rebeccablood at 4:40 PM on October 8, 2000

New name for UND: The Fighting Insensitive Oafs!
posted by capt.crackpipe at 5:07 PM on October 8, 2000

There are degrees. For some things it is better to just try not being so sensitive, but in this case we have some pretty violent reactions.

Of course, I've use the term 'john' myself, but I have a fairly thick skin.
posted by john at 5:09 PM on October 8, 2000

and here I thought I had it bad when people called me Paco, or Juan Valdez, or something equally well thought out.

boiling pot of a country indeed.
posted by SentientAI at 5:48 PM on October 8, 2000

"If people are genuinely interested in honoring Indians, try getting your governments to live up to the more than 400 treaties it signed with our nations. "

whoah.... (nuff said)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 7:23 PM on October 8, 2000

The latest broken treaty: 147 people were arrested saturday protesting Denver's first Columbus Day parade since 1991.

"The Italian-American community, which organized the event, has broken an agreement with Hispanic and Native American groups to call it an "Italian Pride" day, using not references to Columbus. Italian-American leaders back their decision to break the agreement saying it violates their rights to free speech." -- from NPR's summary of this All Things Considered (realaudio) story.

the guy who signed the agreement comes out and says he never intended to honor it. my jaw just fell on the floor when i heard this.
posted by sudama at 9:59 AM on October 9, 2000

The name has been steeped in racism from the beginning:

"North Dakota State University (NDSU) and the University of North Dakota (UND) are rival universities. Flickertails were hardly a formidable foe against the might Bison. The name Fighting Sioux was chosen for a variety of reasons:

1. Sioux are a good exterminating agent for the Bison
2. They (Sioux) are warlike, of fine physique and bearing...
3. The word Sioux is easily rhymed for yells and songs."

There is certainly precedent for changing the name, as it was changed to the Fighting Sioux from the Flickertails.

You may have missed this page if you clicked through to the BRIDGES main page. Here's a pertinent quote from the page:

"People should remember that an honor isn't born when it parts the honorer's lips, it is born when it is accepted in the honoree's ear."

This has been going on for too long. I don't understand why the name hasn't been changed yet.

I've e-mailed the president of UND, at both of his email addresses:
c_kupchella@und.nodak.edu and president@und.nodak.edu. I encourage you to do the same...
posted by iblog at 2:42 PM on October 9, 2000

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