Wick Communications

Boys named Sioux and girls who are no ladies

In Ideas on 12 Feb 2010 at 10:14 am

The Fighting Sioux are in mediation. Well, actually, those who love and hate the nickname of The University of North Dakota’s sports teams are waiting for a federal appeals court to rule on whether the university’s governing board can change a moniker that some find offensive.

It’s a bit of a convoluted story. At this point, some in the Sioux community are fighting to keep the nickname, if I understand correctly. It stems from notice about five years ago from the NCAA that the university was one of a clutch that continues to use nicknames “hostile or abusive” to American Indians.

Historically, there have been some awfully stereotypical portrayals of American Indians for the sake of sport. How do you feel about the Washington Redskins? If that doesn’t spark a little outrage, take a look at the mascot of the Cleveland Indians – Chief Wahoo. I can’t imagine other ethnic groups in America standing still for that sort of thing…

And having said that, I realize I’m in the minority. I think most folks consider mascots a point of pride and don’t see why anyone would find them disparaging.

It’s sort of a philosophical issue for most of us. With the exception of a few of our northern papers, most of us don’t write much about the Fighting Sioux. But there are related issues that come up regularly. In Montrose, Managing Editor Billie Stanton wrote a column about state efforts to regulate the use of Indian images and names for school sporting teams. And Wahpeton was carried a story this week about the appropriateness of the Dickinson Midgets.

Here’ a mascot issue that potentially effects many of our papers: Why are the boys simply the Vikings, the Bison, and the Volunteers – while the girls teams are referred to as Lady Vikes, Lady Bison and Lady Volunteers?

If you ask me, that assumes that girls or women’s sports are somehow lesser, that we should assume sports teams are male unless we preface the nickname with the outmoded term “Lady.” I know it’s not the most important issue of the day. Far as I know, no one has complained. But if you ask me it’s overtly sexist.

I’m not telling you to change the way you refer to teams in your readership area. It’s just something to think about.



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