I’m on a roll today. So then. One of the few advantages of moving to
the end of the world North Dakota was going to be having some college hockey in my life again. I’ve really missed college hockey, and while I’ll always root for my alma mater first, hey, there’s a pretty good team nearby! We should get tickets! Or maybe not.
I was aware of the whole Fighting Sioux thing with UND. They’re voting on a new mascot this year; one of the choices is the NoDaks. What the hell is a NoDak?! So of course everyone is moaning about how omg dumb this is and stupid and not fair and they’ll always be the Sioux and whatever. I just keep my head down. But hey, maybe everyone’s right and the Sioux tribe doesn’t care, right? Like the Florida Seminoles? (I realize that one is still controversial to many people) So I decided to dig into it. Oh boy.
Most of the info is from Wikipedia.
So, some years ago, the NCAA made a list of inappropriate mascots and told the schools to change them. Most did, after much gnashing of teeth. But not UND. In 2011, the legislature actually passed a law that the school’s name is the Fighting Sioux. Then the law was repealed. Then in 2012, the NCAA threatened a bunch of sanctions against the school. The whole thing was put up for a referendum and the state voted 67% in favor of retiring the name. Don’t get too excited here; this was to avoid the sanctions, not out of concern regarding the ethics of Native American mascots.
So, what do the actual Sioux think of all this? There are some people who might try to convince you that the tribe supports the name. Those people lack an understanding of nuance and detail. There are two Sioux tribes - Standing Rock and Spirit Lake. The Spirit Lake tribe voted in 2010 that they approve of the name. Standing Rock never voted. In the county where the Standing Rock tribe is located, 8% of people voted in the 2012 referendum. 84% of the that county’s residents are Native American. The vote was to retire the name. Spirit Lake essentially said via a referendum vote in 2010 that they approve of the name, but it is nowhere near the involvement of the Seminole tribe with Florida State. Some members of the tribe feel strongly one way or another, but it’s all a resounding “meh.”
Enter Ralph Engelstad. Here’s where it gets ugly as fuck. Ralph was (passed away in 2002) a very wealthy UND graduate who made his fortune in casinos. He also had a collection of Nazi memorabilia, a painting of himself in Nazi uniform, and used to throw parties for Hitler’s birthday. He was also very invested in the Sioux name staying.
Ralphie donated $104 million for a hockey arena; at one point he threatened to pull the money if the Sioux name was changed. He made sure that approximately a bazillion versions of the Sioux logo were placed into the arena such that they’d be an enormous pain in the ass to rip out. As an aside, literally every time I’ve mentioned UND hockey to someone here, they’d gush about how nice the arena is. A family trust still owns the arena and rents to the university. There’s a stipulation that the Sioux imagery must be kept. My coworker told me that the university loses a ton of money for the hockey program if they pull the imagery, but I couldn’t quite find anything to substantiate that exactly; but basically the arena is not owned by UND but by people who will insist the stuff stays. The logo is still on center ice!
I’m thinking several things here. Perhaps when a Nazi sympathizer offers you money, it might best to say “thanks but no thanks.” Perhaps it’s for the best that apparently UND hockey tickets are nearly impossible to get, because I’m super squicked out by the whole thing but have a hard time keeping my sports addiction under control. And finally, why is it every time someone wants to do something nice for Native American concerns (see: name of Denali), a bunch of people get all bent out of shape about their white people feelings?
To quote Jon Stewart: “ ‘just because it makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t mean we have to change it’ - isn’t that the definition of oppression?!”
[If anyone knows more on this particular subject, feel free to correct me.]