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ERICH LONGIE: 'Fighting Sioux' critics like new UND logo just fine

FORT TOTTEN, N.D.—I love UND's new logo. As soon as T-shirts with the new logo are available, I will go and buy several, for myself and my grandchildren.

They will be perfect to wear should I attend an athletic event at UND—something I never contemplated doing as long as it used the old nickname.

Five years ago, I wrote a Viewpoint titled, "Is the Fighting Sioux moniker cursed?" (April 11, 2011, Page A4). I actually got hate mail because of it. That moniker is gone, and the curse is gone, too.

Erich LongieAt least, here on the reservation it is. We no longer have competing petitions, no one is running to the Tribal Council to drum up support for one side or the other, our young people no longer are pressured to state their position, and the free Fighting Sioux apparel that was passed out before the vote that was held here on the nickname has all but disappeared.

The curse—er, controversy is no longer mentioned, and we are all better off for of it.

Unfortunately, the curse appears to still be widespread off the reservations. For every time progress is made on the selection of a new logo, a small group of whiny, self-righteous, privileged and probably racist supporters of the now-discredited nickname conjure up letters and send them to the Herald.

FILE PHOTO: Sioux gear at the Sioux Shop at REA. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)And, they comment—along with posting what is now just a generic picture of a good-looking Indian man, since it no longer represents UND, or any tribe for that matter—on the Herald's Facebook page. Like zombies, they repeat the predictable and childish phrases such as, "Sioux forever, or else no more donations," or outlandish phrases such as, "We are fighting for our survival." Really?

And, could the curse be partly responsible for the spanking that gubernatorial candidate Wayne Stenehjem got in the primary election, after a picture of him wearing a Fighting Sioux jersey circulated on Facebook?

Many of those hard-core Fighting Sioux supporters feel they can speak for us Dakota (that's Sioux to Caucasians). They claim how hurt we Dakota are to see the logo gone. This is blatantly false; we Dakota are rejoicing at its demise.

We even went as far as holding a celebration at which we invited and honored former UND President Robert Kelley for his role is ushering in the new nickname.

And, the critics have this sick, twisted notion that taking away the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo is an act of oppression against us, when in truth it's the exact opposite. It feels liberating to travel around North Dakota now that that nickname is gone.

Last but not least, they refer to a 1969 ceremony that supposedly gave UND the rights to use the nickname. Again, they are speaking from ignorance. If they were familiar with Dakota culture and/or ever attended an actual pipe ceremony, they would know that did not happen in 1969.

I'm also amused by all the spin-off merchandise that's appearing under the guise of supporting the old nickname. In my opinion, those merchants simply are taking advantage of the emotions of those few hardcore fans by selling them merchandise closely related to the old, discredited nickname.

Reminds me of the argument of how the NRA takes advantage of tragedies to sell more guns.

Unveiling of the new UND Fighting Hawks logo at the High Performance Center. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)Some people are getting irate about the Herald's constant coverage of the ongoing non-controversy. Not me. Each story is a reminder of a hard-fought victory over a deeply embedded racist tradition. I will never get tired of hearing or reading about it. Sort of like my Lakota relatives who every year celebrate their victory over Custer at Greasy Grass, 150 years ago.

In closing, what this really comes down to is this: a few hardcore and racist Fighting Sioux nickname fans just can't stand to let American Indians "win one."

In their eyes, we committed an unpardonable sin by not only standing up to their racism, but also winning. And they can't let that go, any more then can they let their racism go.

I make this observation from my 63 years of experiencing racism across North Dakota. It has become my belief that there is no cure for racism; a racist person will more than likely die a racist. Hence, the hardcore nickname supporters' lifelong and ungodly obsession with the nickname.

Longie is tribal historic preservation officer for the Spirit Lake Tribe.

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