Goodbye, Fighting Sioux

You will find no bigger proponent of doing away with offensive nicknames than myself.  I would love to wake up one day and find the Redskins, Indians, and things like the Tomahawk Chop go the way of the dinosaur.  Dinosaurs themselves are ok as mascots in my book though, so no worries Toronto.  I find these crass monikers to be very offensive to Native Americans and do little to represent and honor the great people who once inhabited these lands in great numbers.  Instead they are relics of past racism and stereotypes.  I’m happy that my alma mater, the University of Massachusetts, did the right thing and got rid of their Redmen nickname long ago, replacing it instead with the Minutemen, a revered icon that uniquely represents our great Commonwealth.  Don’t get me started about former AD Ian McCaw’s infatuation with Grey Wolves.

That being said, I find last week’s news that the University of North Dakota is doing away with their Fighting Sioux nickname disappointing.  To me there’s a difference between terms like “Redskins” or “Indians” and tribe specific nicknames like “Chippewas” or “Utes”.  If done correctly this second set of names can  be a tool to honor and even educate people about the great tribes of old.  I personally don’t think the first set of names can truly do so, first because they’re based on stereotypes, secondly because they’re too general in their nature.  But if a school is true to the tribe in question, using historical symbols and dress to represent them, I personally see no problem with the names and think they’re a great way to remind everyone of the original Americans who were here before us.

I know many have made this argument before but if the NCAA is going to crack down on ethnic-based mascots, they’re going to have to be consistent.  That means you, Union College Dutchmen and Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  As someone of Irish decent I’ve yet to be contacted by Notre Dame and as far as I know there has not been any kind of referendum in the 26 counties to give their consent to such a nickname as the NCAA dictated for the schools with tribe nicknames.  Personally, I have no problem with the Domers using the name, but I just want some consistency from the NCAA.  No seriously, stop laughing.

Obviously there will always be a segment of the population unhappy with keeping such nicknames, and I know that was the case with the Sioux.  But at the same time there was a good deal of support for it as well both from those in the tribe and not.  Plus from what I’ve read the university itself has done a lot to support the Sioux tribes in the state and try to give the young Sioux opportunities at the school.  That in itself is admirable and will likely continue even as the mascot becomes a memory.

There will always be people to complain.  Hell, there are still some out there (besides those in Waco, Texas) who want to do away with the Minutemen, claiming it offensive.  Sorry, but you only have a gripe if you happen to be British.  But UMass did the right thing way back when and put in place an honorable nickname to represent the state and its proud warriors of the past.  In my opinion, North Dakota is now abandoning a symbol that did the same.