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Raw DS Article: “I’m Caucasian…so I can’t really see their perspective”

April 15, 2010

Note: This article is set to publish in the Friday, 4/16 edition of the Dakota Student. The events listed in this article correspond to that date.

“I can’t see it the way they do because I’m not Native American. I’m not. I’m Caucasian. Umm…so I can’t really see their perspective and how they feel about it [the nickname issue].”

In three sentences, this nameless UND student interviewed at last week’s rally at the Ralph Engelstad Arena demonstrates why the University of North Dakota, and, as an extension, the city of Grand Forks and the surrounding area, does not deserve the Fighting Sioux moniker/mascot/logo. As a result of our community’s ignorance, racism and lack of perception, we have done nothing to reach out and truly honor our Native brothers and sisters, contrary to what so many people claim. Over the past week, I’ve scanned newspaper articles, message boards, and Facebook with a great interest to see if President Kelley’s prediction about a mature and just community able to handle the change in an adult manner would hold true.

What I found were comments that range from the outlandish (“ther isnt one true native american alive in the usa there blood line has waterd down with other races tradition doesnt make you native american”) to the just plain stupid (”Board of Higher Education” and the others that didnt like our nickname can all kiss my white ass!”) and the outright racist (“Not to sound racist but the new team name should be the North Dakota Fighting Prarie Negro’s just to piss the sioux off even more hahahah”). Much as I would have wished it possible, I did not make these up. Actual people, on actual Facebook groups said these things. What does that say about a community that “honors” the now-retired nickname and logo? It’s obvious that President Kelley’s statement was nothing more than wishful thinking.

The internet often empowers people to say and do things that they wouldn’t normally do in real life. I really wanted to give President Kelley’s assertion a chance. With that in mind, I headed out with a personal recording device in-hand to the two “demonstrations” that were held outside of Twamley and the Ralph Engelstad Arena. I use the term “demonstration” lightly here, because I don’t consider a group of 40 people singing “In Heaven There is No Beer” or 300 people posing for a picture to be quite the level of attempted-message delivery and civil disobedience associated with most demonstrations. What I overheard and talked with people about during that two hours was, although a bit toned down, still pretty intolerant and ignorant.

There were several people clamoring for the removal of non-existent “free rides” for American Indian students. How many times does it have to be stated that Native American students graduate with just as much, if not more, debt than your average Joe Halvorson or Christina Aasen from Grand Forks or Tioga? Would those clamoring for “equal treatment” also advocate for the removal of full-ride scholarships and special treatment for athletes that play for the all-too-beloved sports teams on campus?

On the periphery of the 300+ person demonstraphoto were media people from various organizations (like myself), Shriners from the circus held at the Ralph, one enterprising clown from the same event, and several other outsiders. Among the latter, there were several Native Americans. I soon found myself sitting with two UND students, both of whom were quite visibly frustrated by what was going on. In the emotional discussion that soon followed, I realized what a comparable situation these students were facing was to my own life: that of watching a demonstration of neo-Nazis chant and yell anti-Semetic comments at no one in particular, yet those comments still finding their way toward my heart, my beliefs, and my people.

One of the two students with whom I observed the crowd with brought up an even more damning and sad observation to the nickname saga: there were more people and UND students in attendance at the demonstraphoto than there were at the last Wacipi. There is no clearer evidence to show that the “honor” shown by the majority of Fighting Sioux fans was skin deep and superficial at best.

Tonight, nickname supporters will once again meet and walk together in a demonstration of solidarity. Danielle Sime, a community member who planned the walk said in a recent Grand Forks Herald article: “this is a peaceful walk to bring everyone together to show our support for Native Americans and to show how much we do honor the Sioux name and logo.” The timing of Sime’s walk of “honor” places the event during the opening ceremony of the Wacipi. The irony of the decision to ignore an important cultural event is not lost on this Dakota Student columnist.

Instead of segregating, it should be the goal of everyone on campus and in our community to show true honor and respect by attending the Time Out Week events and Wacipi, celebrating the rich cultural heritage Native Americans.

The old saying goes: “Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his mocassins.” We haven’t taken more than a few steps in the past 80 years. Let’s go forth together with a great stride. I’ll be at the Wacipi Grand Entry at 7PM tonight. Will you?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Zack Emerson permalink
    May 3, 2010 11:10 am

    Great article. I loved it.

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