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Dispute: Harsh words spoken


Harsh words were mixed with angry guitar licks Wednesday outside the UND Memorial Union as about 150 people gathered either to rally or watch a loud rally held to protest UND's Fighting Sioux nickname. The rally was part traditional, part post-modern. It featured informal remarks from members of the crowd, traditional drum ceremonies and a performance by the punk band Straphanger.


NICKNAME DISPUTE: Harsh words spoken

 

Protest draws 150 people, mixed opinions

By Ian Swanson

Herald Staff Writer

Harsh words were mixed with angry guitar licks Wednesday outside the UND Memorial Union as about 150 people gathered either to rally or watch a loud rally held to protest UND's Fighting Sioux nickname.

The rally was part traditional, part post-modern. It featured informal remarks from members of the crowd, traditional drum ceremonies and a performance by the punk band Straphanger.

People and opinions also mixed at the rally, as about 50 protesters met on the commons area in front of the Union while another 50 or so onlookers gathered at the building's pillars. At least 50 people passed through the event, with some staying to watch for a time. This mix led to a few tense moments.

"We're here to say we want UND to change its name," said Holly Annis, assistant director of UND's Native Media Center, as the rally opened. "As a Lakota woman, I can say you bring me no honor by giving me this name."

As soon as Annis completed her sentence, a voice from the group of onlookers called out, "Speak for yourself."

Further exchanges

Similar exchanges followed throughout the morning, as protesters carrying signs decrying the nickname clashed verbally with a few Sigma Chi fraternity members, who needled the protesters by displaying UND's Blackhawk Indian-head logo outside their front door, and later with other UND students whose path to the union was blocked by the rally.

"Don't you have anything better to do?" one student said as he walked through the rally to the union. He called the rally or issue "stupid," while protesters told him to join reality and "get out of your own world."

"This isn't a majority or minority issue. We have to raise our voices," said Lucy Ganje, a UND communication professor who wore a badge that asks UND to change the nickname.

Some speakers said they had been told by others at UND to go back to their reservations. The Blackhawk logo was displayed outside Sigma Chi's door for a few minutes as pickets carrying signs opposing the nickname stood on the University Avenue median. Eventually, a fraternity member opened the door and pulled the Blackhawk logo inside.

Support called important

Onlookers were generally against a name change.

Freshman Ian Daly said support from UND alumni was more important than offending a small number of students. A Grand Forks Central High School graduate, Daly said he thought that school's Redskins nickname was derogatory and should have been removed.

"But Fighting Sioux? I don't see how that is derogatory at all," Daly said.

Several onlookers said the crowd's size proved name-change supporters have little support.

But UND student Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation who has been active in past efforts to change the nickname, said he sees more support for changing the name this year than in previous years.

More people are wearing badges that call for the nickname to be dropped, Iron Eyes said. He also said statements against the nickname by Native American Programs Director Leigh Jeanotte and Indians Into Med previously took neutral positions on the issue, were major steps.

Players' views

Three UND football defensive lineman stopped and listened to portions of the rally.

All three emphasized that the nickname is a source of pride for UND athletes, who they said try to bring more pride to the name with their play on the field.

I don't think there's anything degrading about it, said nose guard Scott Schultz.

Defensive lineman Glen Matthews said he didn't think changing UND's nickname would improve living conditions for Native Americans at UND or on reservations. He wondered if some of the protesters simply needed an issue to protest.

To me, it comes back to how's it going to benefit you, Matthews said. If it was going to make life better, I'd say change it. If it's just something to do, don't (change it).

But defensive end Alex Starcevic said that if Native Americans are offended by UND's nickname, the school should change it.

Who does it really hurt? asked Starcevic, who said his feelings about the name had changed after he took a course on multiculturalism at UND.

Starcevic said UND's coaching staff and players try to bring more pride through their actions on the field to the pride the name already has.

To me, I don't think of it as anything negative. I think of it as a positive, Starcevic said. He said he didn't know if nickname opponents understood that UND athletes aren't trying to bring offense to the name by using it.

But if Native Americans find the Fighting Sioux nickname offensive, by all means change it, Starcevic said.

Published: Thursday, December 9, 1999 - Grand Forks Herald

Artist Brien says logo is not racist

The man who designed a new Indian-head logo for UND says it is not racist and that people opposed to his design are using it as a "ploy for division."

Debate over UND's Fighting Sioux nickname resurfaced a few weeks ago when the school unveiled a new Indian-head logo designed by Native American artist Bennett Brien of Belcourt, N.D.

"As kids growing up, we loved the teams that had Redskins, loved the teams that said Braves, loved the Indians," Brien said. "Just because of the name, we loved them. Then, all of a sudden, we go to college and all of a sudden someone tells you, 'Be ashamed of it.'"

Brien, a UND alumnus who is Chippewa, was paid an undisclosed fee by the UND Foundation for the logo. He also signed over licensing rights of the artwork to UND.

-- Associated Press

Published: Thursday, December 9, 1999