Apr 20, 2015 - “Sioux” Not Silent on the UND Fighting Sioux Mascot, By Dr. Erich Longie
I was alerted that my name appeared in a video, “The Sioux Were Silenced,” which is displayed on a Facebook page by the same name and was featured in ‘Fighting Sioux supporters still fighting,’ By Anna Burleson on Apr 16, 2015. The narrator claims my writings were harassment by the media. Expressing my opinion is not harassment and does not reflect the views of the newspaper. The video and the campaign itself are a blatant misrepresentation of the Fighting Sioux controversy that relies on the presumed ignorance of the general public.
Let’s start with the name: “The Sioux Were Silenced.” It insinuates that they speak for all Sioux, which is ridiculous; no one speaks for all Sioux. If they were really concerned about Sioux being heard then they would want the Oceti Sakowin – the Seven Council Fires of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Nations to be heard, not just Standing Rock and Spirit Lake. All of the others have resolutions against the Fighting Sioux logo.
This is one Sioux who will never be silent. I don’t care who or what you represent or much money you have, my silence cannot be suppressed or bought no matter how much mazaska (money) I am offered. Neither were the Spirit Lakers who stood strongly beside me silenced. We refused to accept the one most shameful act in our tribal government’s history, the official support of a racist nickname and mascot. Not one of those tribal members who supported the name is on the current tribal council. And, we (Spirit Lakers against the name) ended up winning when it counted most during the statewide referendum of the name in Benson County, which Spirit Lake is located in. Those of us against the nickname outvoted nickname supporters during the statewide referendum by a vote of 766 to 428. That’s the vote that counted, not the referendum for the name that was held on Spirit Lake that was financed by the Ralph Engelstad Foundation. We make up the majority of the population in Benson County so if there were predominantly Fighting Sioux supporters living in Spirit Lake, they should have easily outvoted those who were against the name. It can be concluded, the most serious supporters of the name live off the reservation. The same can be said about Sioux county in which Standing Rock is located. During the statewide referendum the vote was 184 – 159 against the name. Again, if the Standing Rock Sioux people really cared for the Fighting Sioux nickname they would have voted for it and would have overwhelmingly won.
There is a quote in the Herald article, “We believe there was an agenda by certain leaders in the state to rid the University of North Dakota of the Fighting Sioux name and make sure the Sioux people receive the blame.” The Fighting Sioux supporters can call it “blame” just like our ancestors were “blamed” for Custer’s “massacre” when it was really a great victory. We modern day Dakota accept the “blame” for the retirement of the Fighting Sioux nickname and mascot. However, we choose to call it a great victory similar to our ancestors’ victory at the Greasy Grass 150 years ago. Eighty years of sanctioned racism came to an end with that victory.
Many of us Sioux wrote letters to NCAA asking them loud and clear to stand firm in their banishment of the name and they heard us. We were not silent. NCAA did not bow down to North Dakota officials who made a special trip to see them. In addition, Standing Rock’s several official tribal resolutions against the Fighting Sioux nickname was heard loud and clear, as far as Indiana, the headquarters to the NCAA. They were not silent.
The only thing this continued obsession with wanting to be a White man’s mascot accomplishes is to stroke the fires of racial tension between Indian and White. I would love to travel around North Dakota without having to debate the issue with non-Indians and have them become angry at me when I tear their reasoning that we are being honored to shreds. It brings shame down on us proud, freedom, and equality loving Sioux when other tribes ridicule us for those who continue to fight for the name. It’s time to move on from the days when Indians were second-class citizens and were subjected to all kinds of indignities, one of the most shameful being portrayed as a logo for some Wasicu’s (White man’s) team.