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Raw DS Article: Pull the Plug

February 4, 2010

Imagine, if you will, that a family member, is currently in the intensive care unit of a hospital on life support. Doctors assure you the condition is nearly 99.9% fatal, and that while they can’t explicitly say so, they assume the patient is likely suffering from mild pain, at the very least, and severe anguish at worst. What is your initial reaction to this situation? Would you do the humane thing and suggest that they pull the plug? Would you hold out hope and pray for that .1% chance? I’m guessing that for most of you reading this article now that you would likely choose the former option.

The University of North Dakota has a similar patient on life support—the Fighting Sioux name. This is a death that has been forthcoming since the very beginnings of the lawsuit against the NCAA several years ago. Instead of admitting the (sometimes outwardly) racist undertones of the name and finding a new, non-offensive mascot/name, the State Board of Higher Education decided to shove a ventilator down the throat of that Sioux head seen everywhere at the Engelstad Arena.

Just as the patient in the first paragraph suffers, a fairly sizeable group of our student body continues to feel the effects of racism, ignorance and intolerance from other UND students, alumni and members of the Grand Forks community. That group, in case it wasn’t clear from the above sentence, is made up of the Native American students on campus. Statements I’ve heard from people around the campus and the community are unjust, ignorant and borderline abhorrent. I’ve heard jokes, stupid comments, and the use of Ralph Englestad’s supposed second-favorite derogatory moniker (after the Fighting Sioux, of course) to describe Native Americans that doesn’t deserve repeating.

I’ve long held the belief that this campus community and the greater Grand Forks and Minnesota/North Dakota community at large don’t deserve the Fighting Sioux nickname. Claiming you “honor” the “tradition” of the Sioux is half-hearted at best when you turn around and make comments relating to the very real problem of alcoholism on American Indian reservations. I can’t tell you how many people have said that the reason why the name change should not happen is because of its “tradition.” If I place a flaming bag of crap on your front doorstep every day for a week, would you appreciate my reasoning to continue doing it in the days and months to come being based on the “tradition” I’ve now established?

A friend, for whom I respect greatly, told me a few weeks ago that if/when the Fighting Sioux name is changed, he would not donate to the university in the future. I’ve heard several alumni make the same claims. Are the alumni of this University as stupid as they claim? Basing your monetary donations not on the educational experiences you had during your tenure at this school but instead on the sporting events that you spent 1/64th of your time here attending is preposterous.

President Kelley, Chancellor Goetz, SBHE President Smith—it’s time to pull the plug. This battle has gone on for far too long. If you were to reach out to native students on campus, you’d realize that the Fighting Sioux name does a lot to propogate a racist attitude amongst students and other community members on campus. I’ve experienced this myself as a member of the Jewish community on campus.

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