Wednesday, July 27, 2011

North Dakota Facing an Old-Fashioned Scalping

Are you offended?

The natives are getting restless in North Dakota- and by "natives" I don't mean Native Americans, I mean, surprisingly enough(wink, wink), legislators. 

The University of Northern Dakota has a little problem on it's hands and it doesn't look like the resolution is going to be an easy one. As I'm sure you know, UND is "The Fighting Sioux", a name which the state board of colleges decided to phase out in 2009 and completely eliminate by August 15th of this year. That hasn't happened of yet and, at this point, it's not just a school problem, it's a problem with the entire Big Sky conference, which UND is trying to join.

After the board in North Dakota mandated the ban in 2009, the state legislature passed a measure that required the school to keep it's mascot. Because this, the Big Sky and it's member institutions are having a little hissy fit:

Potentially more damaging, the Big Sky Conference, which UND hopes to join next year, has said the issue will complicate the school's conference membership and some schools may refuse to schedule games with North Dakota. Some believe that would lead to a broad decline in athletics.

Still, North Dakota lawmakers say hundreds of constituent emails substantiate tremendous public support for the current nickname. Some legislators have said they resent the nickname being characterized as hostile and abusive because they believe the name and logo are treated with respect. Others have said the change is being rammed down their throats by the NCAA and think the higher education board should have done more to adhere to residents' wishes.

About 20 schools with American Indian nicknames were targeted by an NCAA policy issued in August 2005. Some teams, like the Florida State Seminoles, were taken off the list when they received approval from namesake tribes. UND got the OK from the Spirit Lake Sioux, but were not able to get permission from the Standing Rock Sioux.

What seems to be the issue here is not the public. In fact, they're the ones that got the attention of the officials in the state houses to have the NCAA pressure on the university alleviated. UND has the permission of a Sioux tribe to use the name, so it appears that they also have the original locals' blessing. 

For me, this all boils down to some stupid bureaucratic mandate in sports (and society in general) that involves always being "politically correct". What's the big deal here? The public wants UND to be "The Fighting Sioux"- the local tribe has signed off too, so why do we have a controversy?

I get the larger implications of past abuse. In my opinion, there's no amount of casino revenue and non-tax payments that will ever make amends for what we put the native population through. It's bad, for sure. Is this team naming part of a blatant scheme to offend a group of people by calling the team something from an important part of the history of the entire United States and especially that region? 

C'mon man...

People need to relax a little bit. If a college team decided they wanted to be "The Gingers" I'd be the first one in line to buy a jersey. I know, I know... I haven't been oppressed AT ALL by the United States, but then again, this in no way refers to the horrible things the US government did to all American Indians. That would be the stupidest thing I'd ever heard of - making light of such tragedies by giving a team a name.

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