Nickname is consistent with country's genocidal past

To the editor,
I support the efforts of concerned students at the University of North Dakota to eliminate the "Fighting Sioux" as the moniker of sports teams there. Use of such names and disregard of Indian objections to them is consistent with this country's genocidal past, in which Indians were seen as wild beasts, like wolves, panthers, and bears. And like wolves, panthers, and bears, Indians were virtually exterminated and then placed as logos on jerseys and hats of athletic teams.

I was just interviewed by The Washington Post on the subject of another mascot issue in North Carolina, where the United States Justice Department has launched a civil-rights inquiry. I hope that the University of North Dakota will have the sense to stop this without being forced to do so.

David P. Rider, Ph.D.
Xavier University of Louisiana


To the editor,
I write to oppose the "Fighting Sioux" nickname mainly for the sake of my grandchildren who may want to attend UND in the future. On June 7-11, 1993, our traditional government and elected officials gathered to discuss issues of concern and two of which was the use of mascots and the term "Sioux". Our traditional government and elected officials have decided that both the term "Sioux" and the mascot nicknames used by high schools, professional teams and colleges such as yours are demeaning. We side with those organizations nationwide who have spoken against the use of the mascots. If our traditional government and elected officials agree that the term "Sioux" and the use of mascots is demeaning to our tribal nations isn't that enough to tell you that it isn't right for you to prolong the use of "The Fighting Sioux."

We as members of tribal nations do not need White people to tell us what is honorable and proper as suggested by those who testified at a recent hearing in Bismarck. Especially, young college students who think that it is all right to use the "Fighting Sioux" nickname. This who issue is not about pride or honor, it's about the economics of the University.

If I as a member of the Standing Rock Dakota Nation felt that the "Fighting Sioux" was honorable and proper then I would be in support of it. But, it is not that way in our minds and I feel that we should not have to prove anything to you or the State Legislature and the Alumni of UND.

We know what is in the best interest of ourselves.

Harold Iron Shield
Director of Northern Plains Media Consortium


To the editor,
The use of Indian People as "mascots" is demeaning, and humiliating to the first nations of this country. When the identity of Indian People is used in this disrespectful manner, it is damaging to self image of Indian children and Indian youth.

We are grandparents and great-grandparents. We ask you, please, to consider the self-esteem of Indian children, and the social and psychological impact that your mascot, and the actions of sports fans emulating that mascot have.

Please, also, think about the disrespect to your own school's Indian students, and the social message that exploitation of Indian People as mascots gives to the entire student body.

Bernard J. Rock, St., Ojibwe
Feather S. EagleRock, Cherokee
Leech Lake (Minn.) Reservation


To the editor,
The system of state supported colleges and universities in this country is the envy of the world, and deserves to be. In North Dakota public higher education has made possible an astonishingly high percentage of well educate and professionally trained adults-- we are known for exporting employable youth. State support of higher education certainly does not guarantee unlimited funds, quite the contrary, as almost all states are discovering. But it does make more likely than not that colleges and universities will not be ruled by selective ideologies, whether religious, theological or any other, and anyone wanting such an education is welcome to go to private or church-supported institutions.

It is also increasingly true, however, that growing reluctance of states, including ours, to fund its colleges adequately has meant that higher education draws more and more of its finances from the military, from businesses, and corporations, and from private donors. The quantity of money that a given school, department, or individual can attract in grants and contracts is even a source of pride, and alumnae and other donors are routinely honored for their contributions. In fact UND is apparently becoming so successful in attracting private funds that some administrators reportedly complain of being slighted in state appropriations as a result. The source of funding for a state university can't help but be complicated, and I wish there were more public discussion about it on campus.

Just now, where the money comes from is seeping into arguments about changing UND's "Fighting Sioux" symbol to something else. A gift from alumnus Ralph Engelstad of $100,000,000 is to be dedicated to hockey first and then to other so far unmentioned projects. If the scuttlebutt is accurate that Mr. Engelstad's money would not be forthcoming if UND stopped being the home of the Fighting Sioux, then his benevolence marks a sharp turn at UND toward ideology. Its public base as a state institution will be as good as gone, for UND will have been privatized by money-- money will be what the newer richer UND is proud of.

Not me, thank you, It is said that schools who have discarded racially specific slogans have not particularly suffered in donations from former students. Yet, Mr. Engelstad, if rumors pans out, might withdraw his. So? We'd be no worse off than we are now. Call me a dinosaur, but feathered green-headed Indians do not make me proud. The lease UND can do is get rid of them and take the consequences if we have to. We'll get over it, and then really have something to be proud of.

Elizabeth Hampsten
UND English Department


To the editor,
Perhaps, as the understanding and respect of indigenous cultures and their contribution to western history and culture (such as the Iroquois Confederacy whose inter-tribal political organization formed the democratic template later emulated by European colonizers) increases, we can do away with old stereotypes. The old simplistic associations which mascots perpetuate may seem unimportant to many-- that's because they have yet had the opportunity to wider their view. I encourage the student government to make a step towards the evolution of understanding and co-operation.

Ben Mahony
Terminal City Magazine
Vancouver, British Columbia


To the editor,
With the University of Illinois now the laughing stock of the international community for their absurd defense of their racist "mascot", it is surprising that the University of North Dakota is knowingly following down the same path. Who would want to go to such a morally challenged institution?

Edward Harper
Dennis, Mass.


To the editor,
As long as the University of North Dakota sanctions the use of its current "mascot" the University is engaged in an act of cultural oppression.

Such an activity is inconsistent with the very purpose of a university. It has the effect of offending Native American students and of suggesting to all other students that the continued subjugation and oppression of Native peoples is sanctioned by broader society.

I urge the University to abandon its current mascot!

J. Lance Kramer
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean
William Woods University, Fulton, Mo.