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Genia Jetty-Wilkie, Grand Forks, column: N.D., don't disrespect Spirit Lake's vote

GRAND FORKS -- I am an American Indian female from the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe. I feel very strongly about keeping the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo at UND.

Spirit Lake Tribe logo

GRAND FORKS -- I am an American Indian female from the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe. I feel very strongly about keeping the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo at UND.

I have lived away from Spirit Lake for many years, but I feel honored by our tribe for the respect our tribal leaders gave to their people by letting them vote on the name.

I feel it would be very disrespectful if the name is retired -- disrespectful of all people, whether they are American Indian or not. Why?

Because I have lived in Grand Forks for the past 13 years and have never felt disrespected. My children go to Grand Forks Public Schools, and they have never come home feeling disrespected because they are American Indians.

If the name is retired, then how do we as adults explain to our children the meaning of "respect" and "disrespect"?


My 10-year-old asked me, "Mom, why do people want the name changed?" I tried to explain it to him, but at his age, it's hard because he learns more by what he sees.

And I find it very respectful for any person to buy and wear Sioux items. Children learn by what they see -- and here in Grand Forks, what they see are the name and logo being worn with pride and respect.

I feel that the Standing Rock Sioux tribal leaders need to show their own people respect and let them vote the way the Spirit Lake Tribe did. That would be the solution.

But common sense tells us that if people want to get rid of the name, then they wouldn't want to allow a tribal-wide vote.

Obviously, the tribal leaders believe that a majority of the tribal members want to keep the name. It's so unfair to the tribal members that they're not allowed to have a say.

We as people in today's world have enough worries without these added manmade issues.

Let it rest. Keep the name, and prove the words on the Engelstad Arena right: We are the "Home of the Fighting Sioux," so let's fight on to keep the name.

If Standing Rock had a name-giving ceremony in 1969, then that is an answer, too. We need to respect our elders' choice of giving UND the privilege of using the name.


There's also the issue of money, because changing the name is going to cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Instead of wasting all of that money, why don't we put it to good use -- say, on our children's health and education?

And even if the name is retired, that, too, will be a waste because so many people respect and honor the name "Fighting Sioux." It's never going to be 100 percent gone.

"UND Fighting Sioux" is such a truthful and honest logo. I'm an original Sioux, and I'm proud to be known as a fighter.

But if UND has to retire its Fighting Sioux nickname, then I feel all tribal nicknames ought to be abolished. And if people really want to try to find a nickname to change, they should start with the Washington Redskins, the professional football team in our nation's capital.

I am an Indian, but I am sure I don't have "red" skin; and that team has not only a name but also a logo that is insulting.

Again, if we are forced to change our Sioux name, then it is only fair that all such nicknames are retired.

But I don't think the Fighting Sioux name should be retired because doing so would be declaring that the tribe's opinion about keeping the name meant nothing.

Our people from Spirit Lake spent a lot of time and effort on winning our chance to let our voices be heard. We decided that we want the name kept, and we believe others should respect our decision.


So, please respect our wishes keep fighting to keep the truthful name and beautiful logo. It will be worth the fight.

We as adults need to teach our children the meaning of respect.

Thank you for letting me voice my opinion -- not only for myself, but also for many other American Indians.

Jetty-Wilkie is a member of the Spirit Lake tribe.

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