Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's in a Name?

If you have followed any college sport in the last couple decades, you have probably heard something about the controversy surrounding the University of NorthDakota’s ‘Fighting Sioux’.  (Update 6-15-12: My previous link is no longer active. I assume do to the vote being past to retire the name UND is updatubg their site.)
Seven years ago, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) placed UND on a list of schools they referred to as “hostile and abusive” and if the nickname was not removed, UND’s athletic teams could risk sanctions.  In the past, other schools in the same position quickly removed these (according to some) controversial nicknames when pressured by the NCAA to do so.  Yet others like the Florida State Seminoles actually got approval from the tribes to use a reference to them as their mascot.  North Dakota tribes cannot seem to agree on doing this and have taken legal measures against UND.

Should we be expecting the same suggestion for the team the Sioux were influenced by – The ‘Fighting Irish’ of Notre Dame?  Will the Irish be the next to voice their offended feelings about a nickname that has been attached to the UND (University of Notre Dame) since the late 1800’s?  Is the moniker ‘fighting’ not considered a prideful description of these teams?  Are those who back these nicknames calling those they are attached to hostile and combatant or are they referring to them being strong and prideful?  This is where the ‘fighting’ moniker can get taken the wrong way.  However, it’s only in the past decades that this has risen as a problem.  The nickname was added sometime in the 1930’s because the school’s main opponent has been the NDSU Bison and Sioux are great at exterminating Bison.   Over all these decades, the nickname has been accepted.  What spurred the issue?  Are people jumping on a bandwagon just to say they did or do they really feel the Sioux tribe is being called murderers?
However you look at it, this issue divides the state of North Dakota, fans, students and the tribes in the area.  Federal lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Native Americans on both sides of the argument with none of them reaching a settlement.  As of June 12th, 2012, the issue had reached the level of being voted on during the North Dakota Primary.  Regardless of the outcome, supporters state they will continue the fight as there seems to be many who believe the name should stay indefinitely. 


  1. I know it can be frustrating to think “we’ve had this name for so many years and they pick now to complain about it now?” If you ask me, it is the people whose name is being used that need to be asked. If the Sioux have no problem with the name, than there should be no problem, but if they do have a problem with it, then it should be changed. Similar problems have been had with teams that are not even named after a people group. Take the devil rays for example; this is not a people group, just an aquatic animal, but because someone objected to the term “devil” in the team name, the name had to be changed to the Rays.

  2. This is such a great topic, because it really has been a struggle across the nation. I love the point about the Fighting Irish, and think it's a great one! I do really think that it should be up to the people group as to whether or not they want their nationality made into the mascot of a school and sports teams. Your point about the origin of the name is really interesting, and from that, I really wouldn't think it would be such an issue. What an incredible feat it was to be able to take down a herd of bison with bows and arrows - definitely something to be proud of!

  3. This issue is one that is frustrating to me. If one has ever attended a Sioux football game, one has seen the video played paying tribute to the Sioux as a tribe. The video depicts the bravery of the Sioux tribe in times of struggle as well as their tremendous courage. Watching it dispelled every rumor I had ever heard about the “Fighting Sioux” nickname being disrespectful. The video truly makes fans proud of their nickname and grateful to go by the name “The Fighting Sioux.”