The following is the opinion of Chelsey Luger.
I grew up in North Dakota. My mother was an employee of American Indian Student Services at the University of North Dakota
, and so we lived here, and I went to school all my life in Grand Forks. I spent summers and holidays with my father in Fort Yates, on the Standing Rock Reservation. I am a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians
, and am also part Lakota. As a Native person growing up in Grand Forks, and also maintaining strong connections to my Native culture, I have always been deeply involved in the controversy over the Fighting Sioux nickname. Naturally, I feel that it should be changed.
I am now a junior at Dartmouth College
, but I have decided to take a temporary break from Dartmouth for one semester in order to study and do research at UND. I am living here now, keeping busy with my full schedule of courses and research. As a UND student, I am enjoying the advantages of being near my family, and being among a strong Native community on campus, similar to the Native community at Dartmouth.
However, there are some down-sides to living here as well. I do not enjoy walking around campus every day, entirely unable to avoid the negative imagery of the Fighting Sioux logo. It seems that nearly everyone chooses to utilize this logo as a part of their clothing, car decorations, and countless other forms of display. I feel perpetually threatened, angry, and saddened, because this logo is being used as an improper and inaccurate representation of Native culture – and it’s everywhere.
I wish that everyone could understand the way it makes me feel to see this logo. If only they could understand the damage that Native people undergo with the perpetuation of this stereotypical imagery. I know that if they if these people really understood, and if they truly cared to honor and respect Native people, they would no longer be so determined to keep the logo around. Unfortunately, there are people who work diligently to make sure that the logo stays; attempting to silence the voices of people like myself, who have good reason to oppose the logo and its false imagery of Native people.
In an effort to become more involved in the UND community, to meet peers who have similar interests, and to alleviate my feelings of anxiety as one of the few students who does not support the nickname and logo, I recently joined BRIDGES
, a student organization which has taken a firm standing in opposition to the Fighting Sioux nickname. While the nickname controversy is not the only issue which BRIDGES discusses, it has certainly been a prevalent topic as of late. Our meeting last week revolved around a new issue which has arisen regarding the nickname. We recently learned about the Ralph Engelstad Arena
’s latest plan to publicly disrespect and exploit Native people under a façade of cultural consideration: the “Unveiling of the Tribal Flags Ceremony.”
The REA will be holding this “ceremony” prior to a UND exhibition hockey game on October 5th. The ceremony consists of flag presentations, a history reading, and honor songs: all of which will be performed by members of both the Spirit Lake
and Standing Rock
An advertisement for this event had been circulated through campus, and eventually reached the hands of members of the Indian community, including BRIDGES. We found it rather strange, to say the least, that such an extravagant event involving Native people will be taking place on campus, yet not one of the 29 American Indian programs or 400-some Indian students on campus was formally notified of, much less invited to attend, this event. This speaks volumes about the true motives behind the decision of the REA to organize this event. This shows that they are not interested in reaching out to show respect to all Native people. They have once again attempted to keep UND’s Indian community away from their proceedings in order to silence our voices.
The REA continues to attempt to convince the public that the tribes have taken a position of support for the nickname. This event is one example of such a scheme. Don’t let them fool you: I will remind you that neither of these tribes has taken an official position of support for the nickname, and it is likely that they never will. Furthermore, their decision to hold this “ceremony” is a complete disregard for the many Native people at UND and beyond who do not support the nickname, and do not support the Engelstad Arena’s further exploitation of Native people and Lakota culture.
I will be joining other BRIDGES members, and anyone else who desires to support our message, in a peaceful demonstration. We will convene as near to the REA as possible during the October 5th event, so that our voices will not go unheard. We formally invite everyone to join us and our cause.
I would like to make it clear that this is in no way a protest against the Native people who chose to participate in this event. It is a protest against the REA, and their decision to use and exploit these Native people in order to obtain their goal of keeping the logo and nickname. The REA and its affiliates are trying to divide and conquer Native communities by ruthlessly attempting to garner Indian support for the Fighting Sioux logo for the benefit of their offensive traditions and bank accounts. We recognize this tactic of divide and conquer which has been used by various parties throughout history in attempts to destroy Native communities, and we will not allow this pattern to repeat itself. We cannot blame Native people who have been persuaded by the REA to participate in this ceremony. We will respect their decision to do so. However, it should be recognized that the REA has been using less than honorable tactics to persuade Native people to publicly support the nickname.
Be aware that this Fighting Sioux logo is continuing to cause havoc within Native communities. Be aware that there is a significant community of Native people at UND and beyond who continue to vehemently oppose this logo. Be aware that affiliates of the REA will never be able to accomplish their goal of silencing Indian voices and exploiting our people and our culture. We will not allow this to happen. See you at the Ralph.
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