Thursday, September 01, 2005

Complex, Unwise, and Life-Threatening?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a predictable op/ed piece on the University of North Dakota Fighting Souix nickname. Check out the opening paragraph:

I'm glad to see that the Star Tribune recognizes in its recent editorial
that North Dakota's use of Indian nickname and iconography is "more complex"
than some other cases. It is indeed, as I know from 34 years on the faculty
there, during which time I never had a year when there were not Indian students
in my office explaining how it eroded their educational experience at the
university, damaged their children,
made, in some cases, their very lives unsafe in Grand Forks. (emphasis mine)

Ooo. One would expect more information about how the logo and nickname made "lives unsafe in Grand Forks." Read on:

The controversy undermines the educational life of the institution as well,
as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) acknowledged
after its accreditation review two years ago. Instead of addressing it in its
"diversity" section, it moved its concerns to the "academic" portion of the
report, saying "continued use of the Indianhead logo and the 'Fighting Sioux'
nickname reduces the university's ability to accomplish its purpose and
diminishes its educational mission."

OK. A little hyperbole about the logo and nickname lowering test scores and such. That's a little appetizer before we talk about how they threatened lives in Grand Forks, right? Continuing reading...Talk about the designer of the logo being Chippewa...Native American programs on campus oppose the name...We must be getting to the part about lives being threatened:

A trip to Grand Forks four years later would reveal a second arena, "the
Betty," and "in-your-face" use of the logo by a variety of merchants to sell
every conceivable item including shot glasses and other alcohol containers,
sweat pants with the word across the butt, hotdogs called "Siouxper dogs,"and so

Demeaning puns abound, as do a host of other uncontrollable usages by
opponents and fans alike, some of which are not printable in this newspaper.
Every one of these items is a use of the name that Native students, and others,
worked against almost four decades ago.

No university president can stop those abuses by fans and opponents,
especially under the arrangements of the sellout your editorial so rightly
described. At the very least, the NCAA can insist that, while such behavior may
be understandable in those who sold their integrity in that way, the students
and athletes of other institutions need not sanction it through such
high-profile events as postseason tournaments.

Wait. I missed it. I'll have to re-read the piece to find out about the death threats. Meanwhile, the author James McKenzie has retired from the UND English Department and now lives in St. Paul -- home of 3M and Scotch Tape.


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