Fighting Sioux: Hostility and abuse is there in black & white
Posted on Thu, Oct. 06, 2005
IN THE MAIL : 'Backtalk' backlash
The hostility and abuse were there in black & white
GRAND FORKS - Let's be clear: the NCAA does not think the word "Sioux," in
and of itself, is "hostile and abusive." Their concern, and the concern of
those who would like to see the nickname changed, is that the use of the
nickname has created a hostile and abusive environment.
Any doubts that the environment in Grand Forks is hostile and abusive to
Native Americans has been washed away by some of the disgusting comments
made in the Herald's Backtalk section Sept. 30.
In their comments, several of my fellow citizens suggested that UND quit
programs that are targeted to Native Americans. Is this supposed to be
payback because Native people don't want an image of their ancestors walked
on by everyone who goes to a hockey game? Taking away educational programs
to get retribution sounds hostile to me.
And no one can deny that this is meant as anything other than vindictive
when one writer wants to "give them a reason to cry."
One neighbor made the not-subtly racist statement that "Indians understand
one thing: money." Native Americans have long understood that the reason
the logo has persisted despite their objections also is money. Hurling
racial epithets at them, though, sounds abusive to me.
One denizen equated Native Americans with dogs, saying that the Huskies
mascot might offend pets. How "respectful" would you find it to be put in
the same category as a domesticated work animal that gets whipped while
pulling a sled? Most people would find that a hostile and abusive thing to
say. Think not? Try comparing your spouse or a friend to a dog.
Most supporters of the logo understand, despite one writer's notion that
"there are more important things going on in the world," that symbols and
traditions are important. That is why so many people are so upset by the
chance that the logo will be changed.
Please understand, though, that logo opponents understand that symbols are
important, too. That is why Native Americans want to guard and preserve the
symbols that publicly represent them and their culture in a manner that
they, not European Americans, believe is respectful.
They are not trying to take something away from the white community; they
are keeping it sacrosanct for their own community.
I am disappointed by the hurtful - yes, even hostile and abusive - comments
that my neighbors made in Backtalk. It is positive proof that we have a lot
of work to do to make this an environment that lives up to the "respect"
that is so often claimed.
Weaver-Hightower is an instructor in educational foundations and research
Exhibit A in case of UND vs. NCAA
MINNEAPOLIS - I imagine NCAA lawyers will consider as evidence of
"hostility and abuse" the recent flood of nasty Backtalk remarks on the UND
logo/nickname issue, masked by the cowardice of anonymity.
McKenzie is a retired professor of English at UND.