Why are Native American students at the University of North Dakota opposed to use of the “Fighting Sioux” but nobody is opposed to the “Fighting Irish?” A recent post to the Blogger News Network entitled “The Irish are beneath contempt” asks this question, rhetorically, and takes opponents of the Fighting Sioux logo to task.

However, the “Fighting Irish” argument is well known to opponents of the Fighting Sioux. In fact, responses to that tired, worn out argument have been around for a long time, and posted on the internet, too. One of the founders of the American Indian Movement once said that the Irish should, in fact, be upset to be depicted by an image of a brawling, drunken leprechaun, but it wasn’t his job to fight battles for the Irish, when he had all he could do just to look out for his own people, Native Americans.

Here is another one of the “Fighting Irish arguments” by a professor who has long been associated with the issue.  

It’s All About Power: Why the “Fighting Sioux” and “Fighting Irish” is a Lousy Comparison
by James McKenzie

A recent comparison of the Fighting Irish and the Fighting Sioux brings up an
old question, one I am familiar with because of long time associations with
both of those UNDs. I would like to address that comparison both as a
graduate of Notre Dame and a thirty four year faculty member at University
of North Dakota.

The most important distinction between the two UND’s fighting mascots has
to do with power. The Irish Americans of Notre Dame have it; Indians do
not, not very much, certainly not in comparison with assimilated Irish
Americans. Notre Dame’s Irish were involved in the choosing of their
moniker many scores of years ago; North Dakota’s Indians were not. The
Irish, America’s earliest, poorest Catholics–they were called “shanty
Irish”–have attended Notre Dame by the tens of thousands now, finding
there and in business, the professions and politics at every level,
legendary successes. I don’t know how many Irish-American professors,
deans, presidents and administrators of every stripe there have been at
Notre Dame, but it would take only a few minutes to count the native
professors and staff at Grand Forks’ UND. And there never has been an
Indian dean in Grand Forks, much less an Indian in higher office.

Moreover, unlike the Irish, who came to this country “seeking opportunity,”
as the cliche goes, Indian peoples are still very much seeking it. The
opportunity the Irish took, once King Philip’s War had nearly exterminated
the Pequots, was in large measure at Indian expense. Notre Dame is in a
state whose very name, Indiana, alludes to the people who died or fled
further west to provide those “opportunities” by which European Americans
were able to do so well. The taking of their name itself, then using it to
symbolize savagery and fierce athletic “fighting” continues the conquest.

To the victor belongs not only the spoils, but even the right to how the
vanquished are to be seen and to name themselves, how they are to be
portrayed in the conquering culture.

Power also explains, in part, why the issue has not come forward more
forcefully until recent years. When there were few or no Indians on campus
to object, when Indians were still being sent to boarding schools to, in
the words of the founder of the first Indian school, “kill the Indian and
save the man,” they were not in any position to voice opposition, or even
to notice, “The Fighting Sioux.” The same circumstances prevented
well-intentioned whites from recognizing the problem then either.

No matter how dignified and sincere any institution taking Indian mascots,
nicknames, imagery for their own use may be, it cannot reverse the power
relationship, undo the history, or control how others will exploit that
stereotype.It would be a healthy thing for the whole community to see

the evidence that went into the NCAA decision.
And while we are at it, let’s look at the mountains of evidence the North
Central Association’s accreditation team took into consideration more than
a year ago when it strongly urged North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education
to drop the name because, “ultimately, the University of North Dakota is
too good an instritution, and its leadership too important to the State of
North Dakota, to let this issue continue to weaken its performance and
impede its full development.”

 

 

 

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