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Monday, May 10, 2010

JOEL SWANSON: THE FIGHTING SIOUX HONOR

I am one of those people who has always thought that when a high school, college or professional sports team had a Native American name and logo, that it was in fact an honor for Native Americans; a salute, a thumbs up, a high five, to a proud people. Stop and think for a moment. How many athletes, young men and women, would wear a jacket, sweatshirt, or tee shirt in public if it had a team name or logo on it that embarrassed them.  The fact is, every young person that I have seen wearing that type of athletic clothing, was obviously and rightly proud of it, proud to wear the clothing, proud to be a member of the team he or she represented.

 

So, from the beginning, I have considered the long and painful process to strip the University of North Dakota of its “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo, to be, well,

ridiculous. I kept thinking that, in the end, common sense would prevail and the UND “Fighting Sioux” would continue to be a proud tradition in the Midwest and continue to bring honor to the Sioux people.  It makes absolutely no sense to me that some people apparently think that the University of North Dakota selected that powerful name and logo in order to make fun of the Sioux.  That could not be further from the truth.

 

Do people actually think that Ralph Englestad spent millions of dollars on a sports arena with literally thousand of “Fighting Sioux” logos everywhere you look, in order to make fun of Native Americans?  Come on people!  Ralph Englestad was simply one of thousands of men and women who will always be proud that they were a member of a “Fighting Sioux” Football, Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Volleyball, or Hockey Team.

 

Why the North Dakota Board of Higher Education, the University of North Dakota, and representatives of the Sioux people were unable to get together and get it done so that many more generations of UND graduates can proudly wear “Fighting Sioux” logos is beyond me.

 

They couldn’t do what a small group of high school athletes and the local Native American tribe accomplished in Warroad, Minnesota. When the controversy first began and high schools and colleges across the country began changing their sports team nicknames; the co-captains of the Warroad Warrior High School Hockey team went to their coach with an idea. And, at the next meeting of the tribal elders, over 30 Warroad High School athletes from every sport the small school fielded, walked in, proudly wearing their school colors and their Warrior logos. 

 

The two young non-Native American hockey players  stood in front of the Chief and the Council and told them in no uncertain terms what it mean to them to be called “Warriors”; That from the time they put on their first pair of skates they had but one goal and that was to play hockey as  “Warriors”. Then the other team captains stood, representing their teams, and said that they too were proud to be called “Warriors” and that they would never do anything to bring dishonor to their school or to the Native American people of Warroad.  And they asked for the Tribal Council’s support and blessing to continue to proudly play and compete, forever, as the Warroad Warriors.

You could have heard a pin drop as the motion was made and the vote was taken; and as one hand and then another went up, and those in the room began to understand that it would be unanimous; there was not a dry eye in the chamber.

 

At the very next hockey game, the Chief and Council were guests of the team, and sat behind them. They were introduced with the team, to a long and loud standing ovation.

And the sports teams of the Warroad, Minnesota High School continue, to compete as “Warriors”, continue to bring honor to their school, their town and the Native Americans who truly understood!

 

It can be done. It has been done. Is it too late for the University of North Dakota? Too late for the “Fighting Sioux?  I honestly don’t know, but I hope not.  Because I for one, am not ready to start cheering for the “Fighting Flickertails”!

 

God Bless the United States of America. I’m Joel Swanson and that is my Comment for today.

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