U of North Dakota – perpetuating stereotypes

University of North Dakota

The hypocrites that make up the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education voted last week to allow the University of North Dakota to have more time to purchase the approval of a Sioux tribe regarding UND’s racist mascot.

The University of North Dakota’s controversial “Fighting Sioux” nickname got a 30-day reprieve today, as the state’s Board of Higher Education voted, 6 to 1, to extend until October 31 the deadline for the nickname’s demise unless a tribal council announces plans to hold a referendum on its use, according to the Grand Forks Herald. The university sued the NCAA in 2006, after the association declined to grant a waiver from a policy banning American Indian imagery in team nicknames and mascots, which the NCAA deemed offensive. In settling the suit, North Dakota agreed to drop the nickname unless it could win the approval of two Sioux tribes. One tribe has endorsed the nickname, but the other has refused to even schedule a vote. (via The Chronicle)

Why are the members of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education hypocrites? On May 14, 2009, the board approved a resolution to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo:

The State Board of Higher Education yesterday directed the University of North Dakota to begin the process of retiring the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo unless the Standing Rock Sioux and Spirit Lake Sioux tribal councils give namesake approval by Oct. 1, 2009.

The board’s unanimous vote to approve a resolution dealing with the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo took place during a regularly scheduled SBHE meeting at Dickinson State University, Dickinson, N.D.

“The board believes this change is in the best interest of the university, its students and members of the extended UND community,” said Richie Smith, SBHE president. “Resolution of this issue is distracting from the important work of the university in serving its students and the state of North Dakota.

“The Fighting Sioux logo and nickname have been symbols of pride for many generations, but it is time to move forward,” Smith said.

There isn’t a single Native American representative on the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education. The University of North Dakota, the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education and the National Collegiate Athletic Association have joined forces to pressure Native American members of two North Dakota Sioux tribes to vote in favor of keeping the Fighting Sioux mascot, nickname and logo.

Perhaps the Administration at the University of North Dakota, the members of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education and the NCAA have not read the following from the American Psychological Association:

In 2005 the American Psychological Association (APA) called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations. APA’s position is based on a growing body of social science literature that shows the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people.

Unfortunately, the motives that are directing the administration at the University of North Dakota (UND) and the State Board of Higher Education are not related to students, student success, the well-being of Native Americans, etc. The University of North Dakota wants to participate in Division 1 athletics and cannot do so until the Fighting Sioux nickname situation is settled. The NCAA may end up enforcing their initial call for UND to “retire” the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, but it was the NCAA that allowed for UND to have an extension in order to explore the possibility of “purchasing” and/or persuading tribal support in North Dakota.

The hypocrites who are supportive of keeping the Fighting Sioux nickname/logo give educators a bad name. They have placed the onus of decision upon the two Native American Sioux tribes. The administration at UND and the State Board of Higher Education have placed themselves in the position where they do not have to shoulder the responsibility of the elimination of the nickname/logo. They are teaching their predominantly white student body that the voices of underrepresented groups only matter when those in power need something from them. They are teaching the underrepresented Native American students at UND that those in power, on an all-white board, can dictate policy that has been proven to be harmful.

I hope that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe does not give in to the political pressure that UND and the State of North Dakota is exerting upon them. UND and the board of higher education have created a “win-win” situation for themselves. If the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe votes in opposition to the Fighting Sioux nickname/logo, then UND gets to say that they tried to “save” their logo. If the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe gives in to what I am certain is an enormous amount of political pressure and votes to approve the Fighting Sioux nickname/logo, then the UND and the Board of Higher Education get to frame themselves as “defenders of the status quo.” It’s really quite disgusting.

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  • lauren

    amen, brother.

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  • tom

    you are just another person with nothing better to do than stick your head in someone elses business. unless you are member of the sioux tribe you should be quite. this is there issue and their heritage at stake. whether or not they want to undo what they did in the cerimony in 1961 to give UND the name is their problem. you should go and get a real job and add value to our society.

  • UND should use Central Michigan University as a model. Have a good relationship with your local tribe and have them be okay with your name and there will be no problems. At CMU the local Chippewa (Ojibwa) Tribe went to bat for CMU and the NCAA went running away. There is unity and diversity at CMU and UND should take note.

  • Steph

    Perhaps Mr. Stoller should familiarize himself with the POSITIVE aspects the Sioux name has provided for American/Native Indian students at the University of North Dakota. There are 16 programs at UND offering specialized assistance to Indian students including medical school, nursing, law, education, and psychology. They currently educate over 20% of Native Indian family practice physicians in the United States at this university alone.Tuition waivers are granted. They are the only university in ND to offer a major/minor degree in American/Native Indian studies. I beg him to find another public university that provides the extent of services to American/Native Indians that UND does. Being of Scandinavian descent, I would proud if the University of North Dakota changed their mascot to the “Fighting Scandinavians” and transferred all the Indian programs to the Scandinavians. Perhaps Mr. Stoller (of Iowa, Oregon, Chicago origin), you should use your higher education degree and get a REALjob and keep your nose out of business you know nothing about. At least educate yourself on ALL aspects of an issue before spewing your unqualified, uneducated biased opinions. And your degree is in higher education? How sad!