Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Fighting Sioux, indeed!

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for posting a link ot this. Open letter to the NCAA from the President of the University of North Dakota. As brilliant a fisking as I have ever seen. Powererfully understated.
Is it the use of the names of tribes that you find hostile and abusive? Not long ago I took a trip to make a proposal to establish an epidemiological program to support American Indian health throughout the Upper Great Plains. On this trip I left a state called North Dakota. (Dakota is one of the names the indigenous people of this region actually call themselves.) I flew over South Dakota, crossing the Sioux River several times, and finally landed in Sioux City, Iowa, just south of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The airplane in which I traveled that day was called a Cheyenne. I think you should find my confusion here understandable, since obviously if we were to call our teams “The Dakotans,” we would actually be in more direct violation of what apparently you are trying to establish as a rule, even though this is the name of our state. ... Is it only about applying names to sports teams? If so, would this be extended to the use of the names of all people, or is it just American Indians? Why would you exempt the “Fighting Irish” from your consideration, for example? Or “Vikings,” which are really fighting Scandinavians, or “Warriors,” which I suppose could be described as fighting anybodies? Wouldn’t it be “discrimination on account of race” to have a policy that applies to Indians but not to Scandinavians or the Irish, or anybody else for that matter? ... Help me understand why you think “hostile and abusive” applies to us. We have more than 25 separate programs in support of American Indian students here receiving high-end university educations. Included among these is an “Indians Into Medicine” program, now 30+ years running, that has generated 20 percent of all American Indian doctors in the United States. We have a similar program in Nursing, one in Clinical Psychology, and we are about to launch an “Indians into Aviation” program in conjunction with our world-class Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. I am very proud when I visit reservations in our state to see that a large number of the teachers, doctors, Tribal College presidents, and other leaders are graduates of the University of North Dakota. Do you really expect us to host a tournament in which these names and images are covered in some way that would imply that we are ashamed of them? ...
If President Kupchella ever tires of academic life, he should start a blog. Now then, I'm a fan of the Cleveland Indians. I like the "cheesy grin" of the Chief Wahoo logo. I can understand how some Natives, though, don't find him endearing. I grew up with stereotypical cartoon depictions of "Negros" with big noses and lips, family members who used the "n-word" simply as a descriptive term without malice, but I find those images and terms unsettling today. I used to live in a desperately poor neighborhood with a large Native population. Community activists were trying hard to build on "Native Pride". it was an uphill struggle, especially since their cousins on the reservation south of the city were growing rich from casino gambling. As a person of Acadian descent, I refuse to see any Adam Sandler vehicle because of his offensive "Cajun Man" routine on Saturday Night Live. I'm not closely connected to my Cajun heritage, but his depiction offended me deeply. Many people don't know that the Cajun people are survivors of one of the first attempts at ethnic cleansing in North America. Longfellow's epic poem "Evangeline" describes in romantic terms a fictional account of a real event - the forced eviction of the Acadian people from their land in 1755 by the British, aided by the Governor of the Colony of Massachusets. Families were separated. People were killed. The territory of Acadia was emptied of Acadians. Do I have a right to be offended? Sure. Do I have the right, because I - a descendant of survivors of ethnic cleansing - find him offensive, to ban Adam Sandler movies from the theaters or airwaves?

1 comment:

docjenn said...

I think I see the point you are trying to make. However, Adam Sandler is not a federally funded institution.