The Past is the Future

Some work I'm doing has caused me to rethink my position on the SBHE and the "name change" issue.

While at first I was radically offended by the SBHE's decision to intervene, and to "keep the nickname," I've decided that these folks, and all who support the nickname, might actually have a great deal of foresight.

See, the way I figure it is that if ND population trends continue, before too long pretty much all the white folks will have abandoned North Dakota anyway, leaving UND and most everything else to Native Americans. So, while they might choose to change the nickname from "Fighting Sioux" to the "Resisting Sioux," or the "Victorious Sioux," or maybe no kind of "Sioux," at least by keeping the name we'd be giving them a head start in a direction they'd likely be inclined to go anyway.

Once the U.S. Army had done it's job around here it was, of course, too expensive, too cumbersome, and bad press to maintain a military occupation, so the northern European folk were brought here (much like the Scots were brought to Ireland) as a more or less self-supporting "army" to occupy the land and keep the natives off it and under control. But the family farmers and townsfolk haven't been self-supporting for years (it's only nostalgia and Washington transfer payments that have kept that illusion alive) and the ex-farmers and their offspring, proletarianized, flee the state, writing home when they find work, and encouraging others to do the same. All the while, Native Americans, who mostly haven't bought into the plan, increase as a proportion of the ND population (this may explain a good deal of the editorial hand-wringing we read about over the "decline in population." What usually goes unmentioned is that it's the number of white folks in the state who are declining). This is why, as Larry McMurtry recently pointed out, white towns on the Plains are starting to look more and more like reservations towns-- the white folks on the Plains are "in the way" of the (capitalist) Empire in very much the same way that the Indians were 200 years ago.

The future of North Dakota belongs to the Native Americans. There may be little point, in the long run, to convincing the diminished and declining white ruling class in North Dakota to change the name. We could get a head start on another name change for the hockey rink, though: how about Fort Engelstad?

Cliff Staples