Is It Wrong For Sports Teams To Use Native American Mascots?

The University of North Dakota’s sports mascot is “The Fighting Sioux”. The “fighting” part is certainly apt – the use of the name has resulted in battles involving NCAA censure, several lawsuits, and a new state law designed to protect the name

The rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association presently prohibit the use of Native American team mascots. North Dakota sought to retain its team name, and negotiated a deal with the NCAA: the school could continue to use its mascot if it could win the approval of the state's two Sioux tribes, otherwise it would have to change the name by August 15.

Opinion among local Native Americans appeared split – some people felt the name was an appropriate honor for heroic leaders such as Chief Sitting Bull; others felt the name was a cultural misappropriation or reinforced negative stereotypes.

The state’s Tribes did not reach a consensus on the name, and the University’s Board moved to retire the Fighting Sioux mascot. However, the North Dakota Legislature intervened and passed a law requiring the University to keep the name. As a result, the university's athletics program faces various NCAA sanctions and might be excluded from joining the Big Sky Conference.

Litigation was perhaps inevitable, but it has only muddled the issue further. Members of the Spirit Lake Tribe sued to keep the mascot, but their case was dismissed. A group of Native American students at the university has sued to get rid of the name and the logo of a Sioux warrior. The state legislature has passed a law requiring the state to sue the NCAA if it penalizes the university for using the name.

Tribal Stimulus? South Dakota Sioux Left In The Cold

(Central Connecticut State University)

“They're out there melting snow and keeping a look out for any water they can use.”

“Schools have been out of session for a week and will likely be unable to open their doors for at least another week.”

“These events are showing just how painfully inadequate our emergency response capabilities are.”

In the midst of one of the worst winter storms in memory, the members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe are struggling for survival. Located roughly 200 miles northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Reservation is home to 10,000 residents who have been without electricity and potable water for days. Worse still, the storms have critically damaged what little energy infrastructure the Tribe did have, making restoration of power and heat even more difficult. Freezing rain and wind have snapped off wooden power poles carrying the transmission wires. “Because of one ice storm, we had over 3,000 downed electrical lines and mass power outages," said Tracey Fischer, chief executive and president of First Nations Oweesta Corporation, a national nonprofit working on economic development in Native communities.

The problems from a lack of power in winter are compounded by the lack of running water. Although much has been said regarding the federal stimulus package and its components designed to assist Tribes with needed infrastructure, the Cheyenne River Tribe has for years asked Congress for funds to restore its ancient water system, which is decades overdue for an upgrade. The total cost would be about $65 million, but so far no allocation of federal funds has been made for the project.