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Monday, June 26, 2006
The Fighting Sioux fight back?
The University of North Dakota is fighting back against the NCAA decree that they change their nickname ("the Fighting Sioux"). You have to take a look at this letter that UND President Charles E. Kupchella sent to the NCAA. It is very rare for anyone in authority -- nonetheless an academic administrator -- to speak out strongly against political correctness. Here's a small taste (bold in original):

To begin with, you asserted that any use of American Indian images or nicknames was hostile and abusive. Later you changed this to hostile or abusive – as if this were meaningful in some way. Some of your initial rhetoric actually encompassed nicknames derived from any race or ethnic group. Many of us heard Myles Brand in a radio interview say that “Fighting Irish” was not a problem nickname because (his words) it was really about leprechauns and not real people. Really?

[Editors Note: I think the NCAA just called Sip a Leprechaun!]

How far does the NCAA think its jurisdiction goes? Does it extend into history? Do you really expect us to airbrush all of the references to Sioux off the jerseys of our many national championship teams – on the many photographs and championship banners lining the walls of our sports venues?

And get this: even if we were to stop using the nickname we have used with pride for nearly eighty years, and decided to forgo any nickname – since they may all be at some future risk – and simply be known as the University of North Dakota and used the University’s seal or even the State Seal, we would still apparently be in violation of your policy. “Dakota” is what some of the Sioux actually call themselves. Our University Seal and the State Seal have images of American Indians on them....

Perhaps the most amazing thing is that through all of this – except for stirring things up – you have accomplished nothing. Your stand against Indian nicknames and logos – a stand that seemed to start out against all references to races and national origin – fizzled before it started when you left out Irish, Celtics, Vandals, and a host of other names. Then, for highly convoluted, hypocritical, and in some instances mysterious reasons, you exempted the Aztecs and other American Indian nicknames at the outset and, following that, you exempted the use of Chippewa, the Utes, the Choctaws, the Catawbas, and the Seminoles, leaving the NCAA position on even American Indian nicknames about as solid as room-temperature Jell-O. All of this was, and remains, highly arbitrary and capricious.

It may be that we have indeed forfeited our rights to fairness and evenhandedness by becoming “volunteer” members of the NCAA, but we may need to find out for sure in the courts since there really is no other membership option for UND.

Like many of you, I don't make many decisions about sports nicknames until I consult trained professionals. Here's what the American Psychological Association has to say:

WHEREAS the continued use of American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities establishes an unwelcome and often times hostile learning environment for American Indian students that affirms negative images/stereotypes that are promoted in mainstream society (Clark & Witko, in press; Fryberg, 2003; Fryberg & Markus, 2003; Fryberg, 2004a; Munson, 2001; Society of Indian Psychologists, 1999; Staurowsky, 1999);

WHEREAS the continued use of American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities by school systems appears to have a negative impact on the self-esteem of American Indian children (Chamberlin, 1999; Eagle and Condor Indigenous People’s Alliance, 2003; Fryberg, 2004b; Fryberg & Markus, 2003; Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, 2001; Society of Indian Psychologists, 1999; The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, 2001; Vanderford, 1996);

I had completely forgotten about the Eagle and Condor Indigenous People's Alliance and their courageous stand against Indian mascots!

Hat tip: Phi Beta Cons.

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