Sioux name debate alive, group says

Sioux name debate alive, group says

Members of the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. group told Student Senate they don't have the numbers to be as vocal as in the past

Tuesday, January 26, 1999
By Josh Roiland
Dakota Student Staff Writer

Sunday night saw the debate of the Fighting Sioux nickname come back into the spotlight-- somewhat.

The four core members of the group B.R.I.D.G.E.S. (Building Roads Into Diverse Groups Empowering Students), spoke to the UND Student Senate last Sunday, letting senators know that they are still displeased with the Sioux moniker.

"We wanted to show that we still feel [negatively] towards the nickname," B.R.I.D.G.E.S. President Petra Fox said.

She said that it is important to go out and educate people on the disrespect the Sioux nickname exhibits towards the Lakota tribe, but she added that people aren't always open to how they feel.

Was the Student Senate receptive to B.R.I.D.G.E.S. message?

Yes, according to Fox and Ira Taken Alive, two of the members of the organization.

"I thought we were very well received," said Taken Alive. "Hopefully it was viewed as a positive experience."

He added that it was a major point not to turn the issue into an us versus them or whites versus Native American situation.

"We wanted them to keep an open mind," he said.

Fox echoed Taken Alive's statements saying that she felt it was a positive experience. "They were willing to listen," she said, "And they gave us our time to give our history and our feelings."

The Sioux nickname debate has not been in the headlines as much this year as in years past-- specifically last year. The main reason for this, according to Taken Alive, was that the group was basically burnt out.

"The whole [situation] is quite taxing," he said, "both emotionally and academically."

The same holds true for Fox who said that the group takes a lot of personal attacks when they voice their opinion. Those personal attacks can lead to a cynical attitude among the Lakota people, which was the case with Fox. She added, though, that the time off was meant to erase some of that attitude and reaffirm her belief that the world is intrinsically good.

"We needed healing time to renew our energy," she said.

Another problem the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. group faces is their lack of people available to do the "Core" work, like organizing meetings and giving speeches. Along with Fox and Taken Alive, there is also Lisa Loneflight and Chase Iron Eyes who contribute their ti me and energy.

A knock against the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. group last year was that the young people of the Lakota tribe were doing all the talking, instead of their revered elders. Fox said this was another reason the nickname debate has not been in the spotlight.

"People asked us, 'Who are you?' and "Where are your leaders?'," she said, "so we went back home (to the Standing Rock Reservation) and talked to our leaders, and spoke on the radio."

She said that they are busy trying to get the elders to come forward and speak and to also get the Lakota people working together.

Through all their work and through all the personal attacks the Lakota people have suffered through, Fox remains optimistic. She noted that North Dakota is one of the last states to take a stand and change the name in an effort to better relations with Na tive Americans.

"But I think they will eventually come up to par," she said, "and see the issue in a different light."