If anyone still needs convincing that sports teams should drop their Indian nicknames and mascots, a visit Grand Forks, N.D., might do the trick.
The campus of the University of North Dakota is the latest battleground for those who cling to the notion that preserving a school's tradition of using an Indian nickname is akin to defending Mom and the homeland.
Count Ralph Engelstad as one who is willing to put hard, cold cash behind his conviction that his alma mater's teams should always be the Fighting Sioux. Engelstad spent $100 million on a state-of-the-art hockey arena, but threatened to abandon the then-unfinished sports facility if the nickname was changed.
Not to worry. The state's board of education voted quickly and unanimously to keep the school's logo and nickname.
When the doors to the Ralph Engelstad Arena were officially opened, UND fans got an idea of just how important the Indian logo was to the Las Vegas casino owner. The logo was everywhere. It was displayed in granite, on the carpeting and on hardwood floors in the arena. The words "Fighting Sioux" were even spelled out in the shrubs in front of the building.
Meanwhile the majority of North Dakota tribal governments have objected to use of the Indian symbols. Protesters, including Winona LaDuke, who ran for vice president on Ralph Nader's ticket in 2000, voiced their disapproval at the arena's opening.
But the incident that really crystallized the dispute was the marketing of an obscene t-shirt at an off-campus store. The shirt depicted an obese Indian performing a sexual act on a bison, which is the logo of UND's archrival, North Dakota State University.
This type of stupid, insensitive act shoots down all the arguments of those who maintain that Indian logos and names are meant to honor the heritage of American Indians. School administrators might say they will only sanction dignified use of an Indian mascot or logo, but they can't control the actions of outsiders.
UND educators can't prevent some unscrupulous merchant from selling vile t-shirts that demean Indians. They can't stop some Valley City, N.D., drunk from donning a headdress and imitating an Indian ceremonial dance. They can't stop NDSU football fans from chanting "Sioux suck," Sioux suck," no matter which opponent their team is facing.
They can't stop these insensitive actions and, try as they might, they really can't distance themselves from the inappropriate behavior. If colleges and pro teams eliminate use of the Indian name they eliminate the mockery of Indians. Boorish behavior may still take place, but not at the expense of Americans who have suffered more than their fair share of indignities over the years.
Many high schools and colleges have abandoned Indian names and life went on as usual. It's just a team name. It's not a religious doctrine.
Getting rid of Indian nicknames is not about being "politically correct." It's about fairness and consideration of others.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.