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Fighting must go; change name

When I read the recent article "Activists strike: Dartmouth folds," (Page 4A, Nov. 28), I sat with my head in my hands and considered yet another incident that will incite more hostility to our community.

When I read the recent article "Activists strike: Dartmouth folds," (Page 4A, Nov. 28), I sat with my head in my hands and considered yet another incident that will incite more hostility to our community.

I'm tired. We need to find a way to resolve the nickname issue peacefully.

Some 500 miles to the southwest at Standing Rock, the Lakota probably are looking east and wondering once again about the people here in Grand Forks.

Ron His Horse Is Thunder, tribal chairman of the Lakota Nation on the Standing Rock reservation, probably is wondering, too. The article says Archie Fool Bear is chairman.

Spirit Lake will be surprised when it reads it signed a resolution of support for the nickname. It did neither. The current tribal chairman, however, signed a resolution of the North Dakota Indian Commission asking that the name be changed.


A resolution of support for the nickname was passed by the Spirit Lake council during the years of the Phillip "Skip" Longie administration. It said the tribe supported the nickname but with exceptions. As far as I know those exceptions have not been resolved.

Yes, there are people at Spirit Lake who support the name, and there are those who do not. Many of those who do not support the mascot and logo are people who graduated from UND. That should be telling.

In 1968, there were few students from Indian reservations going to UND. It was a different time. I doubt that they or those who say they approve of the name understand the effects it has on Indian students at the university today. Maybe the Lakota tribe gave permission because it thought it finally was being recognized as more than stereotypes. I don't know. What I do know is it was a different time.

At that time, many people on the reservations spoke their language, and some had not traveled off reservation. We weren't too many years away from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when discrimination finally was recognized as a blight against society.

Tribes also didn't realize honoring meant different things to non-American Indians. Here is what honoring generally means to tribes then and today: You are chosen, perhaps, because you fought for your country or maybe you did something well for your community.

The honoring starts when you're taken to the dance circle while everyone stands in respect and an honor song is sung for you. Pendleton robes, star quilts or, perhaps, an eagle feather bonnet is placed on your head or you might be given an eagle feather.

As you circle the arena, people shake your hand and give you gifts. You then, in turn, give gifts to the community for this public honor.

When Ralph Engelstad decided to place a statue in front of his arena to "honor" Sitting Bull, I don't believe he asked or invited relatives of Sitting Bull to the honoring -- that would be correct protocol for Indians -- ask first.


Isaac Dog Eagle (as is Ron His Horse Is Thunder) are relatives of Sitting Bull. Isaac came to the unveiling uninvited. He stood in the background as they uncovered the statue. There in front of him was a rider on a horse carrying a "dream catcher" rather than a spear -- the symbol of a warrior. He told me he turned around and left. No one acknowledged him as a relative of Sitting Bull.

It's sad that our two cultures don't connect -- that we have no common understanding of honor.

Most of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota tribal nations have passed resolutions saying they don't want UND to use "Fighting Sioux," not because they want to upset the university system but because around the name comes fighting, acrimony, hostility and even hate as is happening this week.

When I read the negative comments such as those from Dartmouth and listen to some UND students and alumni, I realized how wide the distance is between these two races. That hostility should be a feeling of friendly competition, rivalry and an opportunity to stand up and cheer at the top of your lungs. That camaraderie gained through sports is lost because they aren't cheering for American Indian prowess. It is the "fighting" -- mean, savage and manliness in the name that makes it important to the sport. The Sioux, as a group, are not who they're cheering for.

Enough! Let the name go. Be something that all people can cheer for and standing behind -- "The Force of the North," "Battling Bears," or wonderful "Prairie Dogs." Anything else. Let everyone freely admire the exceptional abilities of our young athletes.

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