ARCHIVE EXTRA: Protesters contest REA flag-raising; representatives display Standing Rock, Spirit Lake tribal flags (Oct. 6, 2008)
By: Lisa Gibson, Grand Forks Herald
About 40 protesters stood across the street from the main entrance to Ralph Engelstad Arena on Sunday evening as fans poured in, some responding to the words on the signs as they passed.
The protesters were demonstrating their distaste with the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake tribal flags being displayed in the arena. Inside, though, 11 representatives from both tribes spoke to the crowd about the honor of having their flags displayed. They were the distinguished guests and speakers at the tribal flag ceremony before the hockey game between UND and the University of Manitoba. The two flags are hung on the north side of the arena.
The distinguished guests, many wearing headdresses and other Native American garb, stood on a red carpet and spoke of respect, honor and pride from behind a UND Fighting Sioux podium. They got a standing ovation and enthusiastic cheers from the large crowd.
"We're very proud to know our flags will be hung in this facility," one said during the ceremony. "Our fathers would be proud." She added that it's a privilege to have the flags displayed. John Chaske, of the Spirit Lake tribe, said UND's athletes demonstrate the Sioux warrior spirit. The Ralph Engelstad Arena is not operated by UND and the university is not involved in the displaying of the tribal flags. Those standing out in the rain, though, felt differently.
"I came out here to be with this group of people," said Karen GreyEyes, a Spirit Lake elder, as she gestured to her fellow protesters from under her umbrella. "I have not yet been in the Ralph Engelstad Arena. I refuse."
One man held a sign that read "REA MONEY EQUALS IGNORANCE." He pointed to it and said, "That's what this is all about."
Other signs read, "Stop Exploiting Natives," "Time for Change" and "Honor Means Understanding."
"We're trying to make a statement about the conduct of the REA," said protester and UND staff member Judy Rieke. "Every time they do something like this, it hurts the students."
Sisters Elizabeth and Chelsey Luger, 22 and 20 respectively, held a banner between them read, "Support UND Teams, Change the Name." A motorist driving by yelled, "Change the name? Change yourself. (Expletive) you!"
The two are from Grand Forks, but Chelsey is a student at Dartmouth College, while Elizabeth is a UND student. They were protesting with B.R.I.D.G.E.S. (Building Roads Into Diverse Groups Empowering Students), a student organization at UND that opposes the nickname and logo.
"Liz and I have always been against the Fighting Sioux name and logo," Chelsey said. "As native people growing up in Grand Forks, we've always dealt with the issue."
"You go, girls!" a passerby yelled, one of many who honked or yelled in support of the peaceful protest.
Chelsey is worried for young American Indians growing up in Grand Forks now, she said.
"It's clear that that level of respect is not there in this community," she said.
GreyEyes acknowledged that many of her people were inside the arena for the game and ceremony, in support of the name, logo and flags.
"I have a tendency to believe most people are supportive of what we're doing," said Michael Eshkibok, protester and doctoral student in UND's School of Communication. "People have good hearts."
Copyright (c) 2008 Grand Forks Herald
Record Number: 123AB73F63BD71D0More from around the web