February 2012 Archives

FORT TOTTEN, N.D. -- My mother, a fluent Dakota language speaker, said this about her beloved Dakota language: "It's very descriptive; you say what you mean and you mean what you say."


This inherent honesty in our Dakota/Lakota/Nakota language made it hard for a Dakota person to be untruthful. This honesty prompted George Catlin, an artist who spent time among Indian tribes in the early 1800s to state: "I love a people who are honest without laws."


English, on the other hand, is so vast and sophisticated that it lets people misrepresent, mislead and outright falsify information without being held accountable.


Such is the case with the recent press release by The Committee for Understanding and Respect. In it, the committee members are rewriting history, ignoring facts and making outrageously claims -- all within the bounds of the English language.


They insinuate that they speak for the Sioux nation, but nothing could be further from the truth. All Sioux Nations with the exception of Spirit Lake have gone on record to oppose the Fighting Sioux nickname.


They say a special bond has been created and cultivated between UND and all American Indians due to the nickname; absolutely not true. Those of us actually who attended UND over the past 40 years didn't imagine the hostile and abusive environment we encountered, an environment caused by the used of the nickname.


They say the Fighting Sioux symbol has brought two warring cultures together -- again not true. Read the vile and racist comments in the comment section of North Dakota newspapers. And I've had some pretty hostile conversations with Fighting Sioux supporters over the past year. It has pushed race relations back by 40 years.


They claim to stand on truth and principle, then in the same sentence say there has been no proof of hostility or abuse, nor of harm to UND or its student body or student athletes. Do the track-and-field athletes who've been denied a chance to compete at the University of Iowa agree?


The committee's lawsuit against the NCAA is intended not to win in court but to sway the voting public. I read the NCAA's motion to dismiss, and it reads like a 30-page spanking. It would be laughable if it weren't for the harm it will do to our sovereignty: Every time a tribe files and loses a frivolous lawsuit, it erodes our tribal sovereignty even more.


People have asked, Why haven't we held press conferences, hired lawyers, given speeches and so on? Because it is not our way. Although we are firmly against the name, we don't want to drag others into it and have them fight our fight for us.


Therefore, we don't put as much effort into dragging elders, cousins, friends and so on into the dispute as the committee does.


True, that's how it's done in the white-man's society, and maybe we should do it that way, too. But many of us are uncomfortable with that un-Dakota type of behavior.


And, we seen how divisive this issue is on our reservations. We all have to live here together; we want to get along with everyone.


As I mentioned, the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Oyate already won this fight. Standing Rock wouldn't capitulate. It's now in the non-Indian arena, so let the non-Indians -- with the help of a few Indian supporters -- insult, threaten, argue and so on over it.


Why is the committee deviating from the traditional honesty that is part of our culture and inherent in out Dakota language? Because it is asking the people of North Dakota to do something that's against their common sense: vote for an issue that will destroy athletics at their flagship university.


In closing, the committee may refer to culture in their speeches and press releases, but that's just modern-day spin; nothing more, nothing less. The hard truth is the Fighting Sioux nickname is hostile and abusive to American Indians who have attended, are currently attending and will attend UND. Our ancestors must be spinning in their graves.

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