Sioux 'em! North Dakota gives up on its mascot
With unemployment around 9.7 percent, competition is fierce in the job market, and people want to know where the jobs are. If you’re a graphic designer looking for work, Grand Forks, ND, might have some opportunities.
Earlier this month, the North Dakota Legislative Council received a cost estimate from University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley showing that retiring the school teams' Fighting Sioux nickname and logo to comply with the NCAA’s Native American mascot policy (and a court-imposed settlement) will cost approximately $750,000. About $575,000 of that will go to developing a new moniker and logo for the school.
Total costs of changing UND’s mascot from the Fighting Sioux to the Brute Buffalos or the Running Nokotas (not bad— it’s North Dakota’s state horse) could tally $20 million if the school is forced to make physical changes to the Ralph Engelstad Arena. State representative Mike Schatz, who requested the cost estimate, ardently opposes that move. In an open letter, Schatz wrote, “Does an organization funded by public money have the right to tell a state what it can call its athletic teams? If it does, then we no longer live in a free society.”
Schatz’s constituents and colleagues agree. In March, the legislature approved a bill ordering UND to retain its controversial nickname and logo, even though the University was already in the process of retiring them. Approximately 1,700 of the 1,800 emails one legislator received supported a bill that compelled the ND Attorney General to consider filing a lawsuit against the NCAA if it threatened sanctions.
Perhaps it was the NCAA’s firm stance or repeated Supreme Court rulings (as late as January 2011) that “Even though the NCAA deals with, accepts dues from, and imposes rules on public universities, it remains a private— not public— organization” (The Plains Daily) or that schools threatened to keep UND off their schedules, and the Big Sky Conference told North Dakota that its future conference affiliation could be jeopardized. Whatever: in August, Governor Jack Dalrymple said he would introduce legislation November 7 authorizing UND to change the nickname, repealing the March law.
Schatz says he won’t vote for the repeal. Why should he? According to the 2000 Census, only 169 of Schatz’s constituents are Native American.
North Dakota is home to five reservations and the country’s 12th largest Native population, yet at the same session they passed the Fighting Sioux bill, lawmakers voted down and eliminated Native language revitalization programs, the state Indian education director position, and state consultation with tribes (SB2239, SB2130 and SB2353). These moves were made despite the facts that the per capita income of American Indians on reservations is half the American average, that more than 46 percent of North Dakota’s Native children live in poverty, and that the current graduation rate at reservation schools is around 50 percent (The Children’s Defense Fund).
October 7 was First Nations Day in North Dakota, and the state issued a proclamation: “62nd North Dakota Legislative Assembly affirmed the work of the North Dakota Tribal and State Relations Committee … and North Dakotans are encouraged to commemorate the long-standing, cooperative relationships formed among tribal nations and the State of North Dakota.”
Given the recent legislation, the First Nations Day proclamation may no more than empty words. However, UND appears ready to retire the mascot the NCAA deemed “hostile and abusive.” And when that happens, $20 million will be up for grabs in Grand Forks. If you apply for a job, pack a heavy coat.
Juanita lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son, and many dogs.Read more on: Native Americans