Tuesday, May 02, 2006

NCAA Denies UND Appeal on "Fighting Sioux"

On April 28, after a long year, especially for UND Indian students, the NCAA finally denied the University of North Dakota's request to keep using the "Fighting Sioux" name and logo. If you'll recall, last summer the NCAA posted a list of 30 colleges and universities that would be banned from hosting NCAA championship events because of their offensive use of American Indian names, mascots, and imagery. UND and the North Dakota state board of education appear to be planning to sue in federal court over the matter.

The issue raises educational issues, as many of you know, about the potential hostility of the campus environment to Indian students. There's the hostility of going to school on a campus inundated with offensive material, but there's also the hostility of being an American Indian student at a time when the use of the names, mascots, and images is being attacked. In some ways, this second situation is far worse.

There are interesting questions of tribal sovereignty as well. The NCAA decided at some point during this year (largely due to incredible political pressure from both Bush Administrations over the Florida State Seminoles), that a college or university's use of American Indian names, mascots, and imagery is okay if the affected tribes consent. One of the two Florida Seminole tribes consented -- FSU's use was accepted and their school taken off the list. The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe consented -- Central Michigan University was taken off the list. And so on. At UND, this new rule resulted in the University President Charles Kupchella appealing to every North Dakota Sioux Tribe -- Standing Rock, Sisseton, and Spirit Lake. While some of the tribal councils wavered, they ultimately didn't budge from their standing objections, for the most part. These objections were sufficient to convince the NCAA.

The question remains -- can one tribe consent to the use of American Indian imagery? What if UND received consent from one (or even all) of the three Sioux tribes? What about the Sioux tribes in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Montana? Can any one of them exercise sovereignty and block UND's use? What about tribal organizations, such as the United Tribes Technical College, which has long and strenuously objected to UND's use?

An outstanding powerpoint presentation developed by UND Native Media Center's Holly Annis details the troubling history of the Fighting Sioux name and logo.


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