Number of People Nice Enough to Stop By....

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Art of Fighting Without Fighting Sioux

Yes the lockout goes on.  And on. And on.  But there's no point discussing it for right now because nothing's going to change in the near future. That plus the fact that everybody who's anybody--pundits, media types, fans, and especially those outside observers who loving taking their uninformed potshots--has weighed in already makes a discussion of the lockout here all the more irrelevant.  Suffice to say we all know it stinks.
But we're handling it, each in our own way.  End of that discussion.

Something else I want to get out of the way.  Some administrative type stuff: for those of you seeking the link to the On Frozen Blog site, there is a reason it is currently not listed under the Bluelinemates list.  Recently there has been discovered some malware that has seemingly been traced back to a link from that site.  The kind folks at Blogger.com have let me know this and thankfully enough no machine I've worked with has been affected.  But until such time as the folks at OFB clear up this, ahem, personal issue of theirs, there will not be a link to that site from here.  My apologies for the inconvenience, but it's the only way I can keep things going for the time being.

So now on to the real article......anyone following US College hockey knows at least something about what's going on over at the University of North Dakota.  Good old UND.  Maybe it should now stand for UnkNown Draftees?  Or perhaps UNDaunted in their quest to reach another berth in the Frozen Four?  They're certainly not a team that should be UNDerestimated.  Why the weird acronyms?  Because the storied hockey team, as are all the sports teams at the university are now the team Formerly Known as the Fighting Sioux.  Or, more accurately, the Team That Currently has No Name.  No thanks to that bastion of integrity, the NCAA.

Look, I get the whole argument of taking offense at an entire people or nation being made out to be a "mascot" of a team.  Living where I live (the Washington DC/Baltimore area) I understand full well the whole conundrum of having a team that has a nickname that, for all intents and purposes is a racial slur. Of course I'm speaking of the Washington Redskins.  But like with every discussion, there's at least one other side to the story.

That other side is, strangely enough, the Sioux themselves.  You know, the ones who were actually depicted on the uniforms, buildings and such. As it happens, their voice has yet to be fully heard regarding the matter.
Read the entire article linked and scratch your head in wonder at what has resulted.

I recall a Redskins player from years past, Defensive lineman Charles Mann and his answer when he was asked his opinion on the subject.  To paraphrase, his response was that his opinion on the whole discussion did not matter.  Further, the opinion of those depicted in question, namely all Native Americans, was all that mattered.  This I believe is the right way to think about it.  So if being identified as part of an athletic team is offensive to a particular ethnic group to the point where it causes them grief, then by all means change the name.  But that doesn't seem to be the case here.

I share the same point of view as the writer of the aforementioned article, Greg Wyshynski.  I am yet another pudgy white guy whose opinion does not, nor should not count in this matter.  But that certainly doesn't mean  that I don't have one.  And it is simply this: In the specific case of the Fighting Sioux, the name on its surface seeks to honor the Sioux Nation, not deprecate it in any way.  Disagree with me if you wish, again all I am is a fat white hockey fan who sees the logo and the name Fighting Sioux as something of an homage of sorts to identify a proud people.  As opposed to "Redskins" which as I said, is an ethnic slur, nothing more.

Something  from a hockey history perspective (you had to know it was coming): yes there is a team in the NHL called the Blackhawks.  The name was created to honor the U.S. Army's 86th Infantry division AKA the Black Hawk Division. The founder of the team, Major Frederic McLaughlin, had served in the division during World War I. The division, in turn, was named after the Chief of the Sauk Nation, Black Hawk.  Black Hawk as it turns out is an important figure in the early history of Illinois.  Is this hateful or more of an homage?  The answer varies depending on your viewpoint.

But to conclude, I think it's foolish to completely discount the opinion of the very people that are the subject of this controversy.  And that's exactly what's happened.  That's certainly not to say there aren't those who are offended by the Fighting Sioux logo and name.  But to not take our cue from the majority of the descendants of people who hold a lasting place in American History is in my opinion just as offensive.  After all the Fighting Sioux means just as much to the community as it does to the people who created their memories.  Ask yourself what you think of when you see the logos and read the name anywhere in Grand Forks, ND. Better make it fast, though, because identity seems to mean nothing to the NCAA, who this very moment are making sure all removable traces of the Fighting Sioux are being taken down from the Ralph Engelstad Arena. One of the great things about history is that you get to learn who you were, and therefore who you can be.  Little wonder why it seems like we've lost our way since we don't take pride in our identity.