October 2011 Archives

October 14, 2011

North Dakota University System
10th Floor, State Capitol
600 East Boulevard Ave, Dept. 215
Bismarck, ND 58505-0230

 Mr. Grant Shaft,

We, the signatories of this letter (Spirit Lake tribal members) speak on behalf of the three 300+ tribal members who want to see the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo retired.

Over 300 hundred Spirit Lake tribal members voted against UND's continued use of the Sioux name.  We believe that number has now grown, possibly doubled since the referendum on the name.

We do not agree with and we are embarrassed by the threats our fellow tribal members are making on behalf of the Spirit Lake Nation.  The Committee for Understanding and Respect's indiscriminate threats neither increase understanding or respect for our Dakota way of life nor do they speak for the hundreds of Spirit Lake tribal members who want to see the name retired.

Our (Sioux) traditional values are courage, honesty, generosity, respect, and perseverance. The value of generosity is most apparent in our traditional giveaways and ceremonies. Gifts are freely given with no strings attached with the understanding that the recipient will use the gift as needed.  For example, a person is gifted a horse and he/she can now use or even sell the horse without consulting the person who provided the gift.  After all, the horse now belongs to the new owner.  We have never witnessed or heard of a Sioux who follows our traditional values provide a gift to someone and then try to direct how they use their gift.  

We understand our (Sioux) way of giving may be different from another's way of giving and we respect cultural differences. For example, the Ralph Englestad Arena was "given" to UND, yet ownership and management are controlled by the Ralph Englestad Foundation rather than the University of North Dakota (UND).  We do not understand that type of giving, but if that's their way, that's their way.

For arguments sake, let us say there was a legitimate pipe ceremony by Standing Rock's ancestors giving the "Sioux" name to UND.  The ceremony and the "gift" of a name would fall under cultural norms as I have previously explained. This would mean that a Sioux who lives according to the above traditional values would NOT intercede if UND decided to retire or give the name away.  No true traditional Sioux would dream of not respecting the pipe that was used when the ceremony was conducted.

In closing, we can't think of a reason why the SBHE would need permission to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo from anyone considering the ND Supreme court ruling in the SBHE's favor [Davidson v. State (2010)]. However, just in case, the SBHE is seeking permission to retire the name we say this: for what it's worth, on behalf of the hundreds of Spirit Lakers, on behalf of the thousands of Sioux, and on behalf of all the Sioux Nations that issued resolutions, stating their opposition to UND keeping the name, we hereby give you permission to retire the name.


As a Herald story noted Friday, the pro-logo individual(s) did not do well in the tribal elections. This debunks the claim by non-Indians and Indians who are not enrolled at the Rock that Standing Rock is strongly pro-logo.

By: Erich Longie,

By Erich Longie

FORT TOTTEN, N.D. -- A lot of attention has been given to the letters written to the Big Sky Conference by my fellow tribal members and their Committee for Understanding and Respect.

What got much less attention were the results of the tribal election held at Standing Rock on Oct. 6. But the outcome of that election had more potential to influence the outcome of the nickname and logo issue than the letters written by my fellow Spirit Lakers.

As a Herald story noted Friday, the pro-logo individual(s) did not do well in the tribal elections ("Nickname supporter loses bid for tribal seat," Page A1).

This debunks the claim by non-Indians and Indians who are not enrolled at the Rock that Standing Rock is strongly pro-logo.

Many pro-logo people were hoping the outcome of the election at Standing Rock would result in a vote on the Fighting Sioux nickname. (In my view, that's the real reason House Majority Leader Al Carlson went back on his word shortly after his meeting with NCAA.)

So, with the elections at Standing Rock now over, have we taken another step toward the retirement of a symbol of conquest commonly known as the Fighting Sioux logo? Maybe.

But how many times has each side thought it had victory in its grasp only to have it snatched away?

Not so many years ago, our Spirit Lake Tribal Council refused to meet with then-UND President Charles Kupchella on the logo issue. And I remember attending a General Assembly when the logo issue was brought up -- and was overwhelmingly defeated.

Now, our reservation has a resolution supporting the name, and my fellow tribal members are threatening to take action against the Big Sky Conference, UND and the State Board of Higher Education.

Although I'm not a lawyer, I'm comfortable enough in my knowledge to say this: Our tribal court does not have jurisdiction over either UND or the state board.

And I say this with some regret, because although I am strongly against the name, I think it would be very nice indeed if our court did have jurisdiction over state institutions. For if it did, the Committee for Understanding and Respect could sue the Al Carlson-led Legislature for rejecting six bills that would have allocated close to a million dollars to address American Indian issues.

There are about 6,700 Spirit Lake tribal members. Some 700-plus voted for the name, which is roughly 10 percent of our total population.

Meanwhile, the combined population of all Sioux reservations is more than 110,000. Leaders of these reservations have signed a resolution against the name.

So, the 700-plus who voted for the name comprise less than 1 percent of the entire Sioux Nation. Hardly an overwhelming majority, I would say.

The majority of Spirit Lake tribal members who have graduated from UND are against the name and have signed a letter to that effect.

Much ado has been made of the Sioux "disappearing" if the logo is retired. This is the most foolish, racist argument of them all. Not one Caucasian has come up to me and said they are proud to meet a "Fighting Sioux" (me). On the other hand, many, many Caucasians have come up to me and shook my hand after I received my doctorate from UND.

It will be UND that will be forgotten if pro-logo supporters insist on keeping the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

Last but not least, a Herald editorial stated the only reason the nickname is going to be retired is because of NCAA's policy ("NCAA, not Big Sky, deserves committee's wrath," Page D1, Oct. 9).

Hmm: After all that has transpired because of the nickname over the past 40 years, it is sad to note that the editorial board and likely others still don't understand that it is derogatory to use a race of people as nicknames, mascots or logos.

Or, maybe they have, and they just don't have the courage of their convictions to state it publicly due to fear of retaliation by pro-logo supporters.

Longie is president of Spirit Lake Consulting.

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