Dec 18, 2015 - Thank you President Kelley, from a NDN UND Alumni, By Dr. Erich Longie
Over the course of 20 years I received 3 degrees from the University of North Dakota (UND): a Bachelors, Masters and a Doctorate. As a UND alumni, and as a Sioux, I want to thank President Kelley for his honorable and courageous leadership he demonstrated in carrying out the wishes all the North Dakotan who voted to end the use of the Fighting Sioux nickname at my beloved alma mater.
It was this honorable and courageous leadership that so infuriated the die-hard nickname supporters. They were so used to previous presidents backing down when the issue of retiring the Fighting Sioux nickname was discussed. Not President Kelley. Although they savagely attacked him again and again, he went about doing his job, without demeaning, degrading, or insulting anyone. Their scorched earth policy of attacking President Kelley only strengthen the resolve of us Indian students who had, or who were attending UND, to support him and his decisions regarding the nickname.
Why did the die-hard nickname supporters attack President Kelley so viciously that a new term, North Dakota Mean, was coined to describe their behavior? After all, Kelley was hired when the nickname fight was basically over and done with. He really didn’t have anything to do NCAA’s policy. It was because they can’t accept these truths: 2 out of 3 North Dakotan voted against the name, and the name is racist to the majority of Indian students who attended UND. Rather than accept these truths they pounced on President Kelley simply because he was not being born and raised in North Dakota.
I was puzzled when I read that the incoming interim president said he was going to repair the relationship with the tribes. There is nothing to repair now that the Fighting Sioux nickname has been retired. The only problem now is that some die-hard nickname supporters will not move on. With the nickname now retired and a new one selected I sincerely hope he doesn’t attempt to start a dialogue with tribal governments regarding the nickname. The Fighting Sioux Curse is dead and buried; let’s leave it that way.
Here are few other misconceptions that should be cleared up:
• Statements have been made that us Sioux should have been consulted in picking a new nickname. Nothing can be further from the truth. I live on Spirit Lake, twenty-four seven, and not once have I heard any tribal member, or elected official, express concern why we were not consulted on the selection of a new nickname. Once the majority of North Dakotan voted against putting the Fighting Sioux nickname in the state constitution it became a non-issue on our reservation and we quickly forgot about it. How many Sioux from Spirit Lake, or Standing Rock attended the protests held on campus in support of the name this past year? Zero, zilch, nada.
• The Sioux will be relegated to the dustbins of history now that UND is no longer called the Fighting Sioux. Ake (again), nothing can be further from the truth. Due to tribal colleges we now have doctors, lawyers, state legislators, etc., and these numbers are growing by leaps and bound every year. We gather by the thousands every year in different formats to discus issues in Indian Country and our powwows draw ten of thousand of participants and spectators. We will not be forgotten, unlike the Fighting Sioux nickname which, eventually, will not even be a memory.
• People who say they will be Sioux forever. There are seven bands that make up the Oceti Sakowin, (Seven Council Fire), or the Great Sioux Nation. Unless you belong to one of these bands, then you are not a Sioux, you will never be a Sioux, and us actual Sioux want you to stop claiming that you are a Sioux. There is no need to disgrace the National Anthem and us actual Sioux by yelling “Sioux” at the end of National Anthem.
In closing, on behalf of the majority of the 1000’s of Native American students who have attended UND over the past 50 years who have tirelessly advocated for the retirement of the nickname I wish President Kelley well in his retirement. He is welcome to visit us at Spirit Lake Nation anytime.