"Tradition and Respect" as interpreted by Earl Strinden

The following column appeared in the March/April 2000 UND Alumni Review. Written by Executive Vice President and CEO Earl Strinden (Class of 1958), it vividly shows Strinden's historical bias and his desire to obscure, omit, smear, and outright fabricate reasoning-- in an unbelievably illogical fashion-- that irresponsibly denies alum an accurate interpretation of the issue.

The Frank Clearwater Memorial Institute (FCMI) has rendered a point-by-point critique of Strinden's words in attempt to augment his obscene propaganda. The column appears in its entirety following this critique. [Note: Strinden's words appear like this, while FCMI's critique appears like this. Formatting is by BRIDGES.]


The Fighting Sioux name issues seems to defy intellectual discussion. One person says it is insensitive and disrespectful. Another person believes UND's association with the name Sioux brings honor, understanding, and respect.
Perhaps the issue defies Strinden's capacity for intellectual discussion. He did not appear interested in "discussion" as he vehemently defended the morality of the name's usage at the Student Senate meeting in the Spring of 1999. But, most people, can easily engage in the issue-- let alone any issue-- if given proper information to do so. The lack of agreement and consensus regards people's access to information.

With the Internet, many alumni across the nation and world are aware of what is happening at UND on a daily basis. We have received e-mails, phone calls, and letters on this issue, even though we have not written about this in the Alumni Review.
This was likely an intentional act, to keep the outcry over the name and the new logo under wraps and out of the hair of alum. It would be important information for them to have if their alma matter was decried as an institution endorsing and utilizing racism. Now, alerting alum to the situation, and by controlling their information, he hopes to spur them to respond emotionally in amazement-- yet with restricted knowledge on the background of the issue.

I asked Brenda Ling, editor of the Alumni Review, to report to the alumni and to quote from American Indians who are on both sides. Her article is in this issue.
[The article by Ling may be found here.]

In the spring of 1999, I met with an American Indian leader who presented an idea for development of a new logo which he hoped could be used both on the reservation, as well as at UND.
A frequently used tactic by Strinden is to not directly mention the Nation of the "American Indian leaders" he frequently quotes and talks about. "American Indian" can refer to Seminoles, Inuits, Navajos, Apaches, Ojibewa, or even Lakotans, Dakotans, or Nakotans. The ethnicities and cultures of Native Peoples are distinct and all attempts should be made to ensure that a specific people are speaking in regards to that which directly effects them, such as a Lakotan (Sioux) speaking on the issue of the "Fighting Sioux" nickname, not a Ojibewan, as is "Native Artist" Bennet Brien who drew the "new" logo.

When former President Kendall Baker precipitously dropped the Blackhawk logo, many letterwinners and alumni were upset.
Strinden evidently never recovered by Baker's attempts to at least partially redeem UND's image as a tolerant institution. What many don't know is that many others criticized Baker's decision because it didn't go far enough! They saw a more generic, continually stereotypical, and prejudiced interpretation of the "Fighting Sioux" nickname, instead of the complete removal of the nickname from every facet of UND.

It was years ago when the Chicago Blackhawk NHL organization gave UND permission to use their logo.
The demands of Illinois Native Peoples to drop the "Blackhawk" moniker aside, it should be pointed out-- yet in never is, apparently-- that there is no logical reason for a "Blackhawk" picture (which is stereotypical as well) to adequately represent a "Sioux". It's as if a Swede could be represented by the picture of a German. Many a German and many a Swede would feel their heritage belittled by such slander.

I expect the negative reaction to the decision to drop this long-standing and traditional logo was in part because the letterwinners were not allowed any involvement or provided any explanation prior to the decision. They rightfully believe they are the builders of our proud Fighting Sioux tradition, including national championships in hockey.
Strinden mentions "our proud Fighting Sioux tradition", without mentioning that not he, nor the majority of letterwinners or other "builders", are of "Sioux" heritage. How could he be part of a tradition the he doesn't belong to? He claims that since letterwinners weren't allowed to dictate their wishes, this atrocity happened. What about those whose wishes should be more central to this issue, those of Native peoples themselves? Like, perhaps, all the "Sioux" tribes of the Dakotas who have demanded a name change?

There was an organized effort to bring the Blackhawk logo back, especially for the hockey uniforms. This, however, was not successful.
He was, however, well on his way to pushing a new logo quietly through the Administration before the Grand Forks Herald got a whiff of it, and broke the story open. Strinden would have preferred, of course, to quiet his critics by leaving them in the dark over such maneuverings, but a press conference was forced from the publicity and subterfuge was deterred. Even though the word coming from the Administration was that the logo wouldn't appear on any jerseys during the 1999-2000 school year, all soon found out that the Men's Hockey team had already requested such an action, and would most likely have gotten their way, had the pressure not mounted so on President Kupchella. So, Strinden almost did get his Blackhawk logo back.

In my research of the name issue, it is obvious those who took the lead in promoting the change from Flickertails to the Sioux did this because they believe the Sioux name depicted an image of courage, overcoming adversity, winning battles, and determination.
With all due respect to Strinden's "research", it is important to differentiate between what "those who took the lead" thought they knew and what they intended to make everyone else think. Those who took "the lead" were all white, all male, and all prominent and rich elements of the UND infrastructure. There were no Native students attending UND, let alone who were able to vote in the state, not to mention any who approved of this change.

I believe UND was the first university established in what was once the Sioux Nation.
It appears that Strinden actually doesn't see the importance of what he is saying by this. He could just have easily written: "I believe UND was the first university established on what is stolen Sioux land." His statement above says nothing about the respect this school originally paid to those its founder's ancestors had forcibly relocated; in fact, it was an act of mockery and disrespect.

Over the past years, UND has given a high priority to making educational opportunities available to the American Indian citizens. Today, we are one of the premier universities in the nation for successful American Indian programs. We are very proud to have within our alumni family a growing number of American Indians and take pride in their success in medicine, law, education, nursing, and may other careers.
Since this is such common rhetoric, many people miss it: Strinden doesn't even provide a foundation for how any of this has anything to do with UND using the "Fighting Sioux" as a nickname. All the above programs and accomplishments are highly commendable and deserve praise. However, what does this have to do with having a racial nickname? These programs are undermined by existence of an official nickname, that belittles the very people those programs wish to aid and educate.

Unfortunately, there is still intolerance in our society and some individuals will at times be irresponsible.
Strinden's very endorsement of a racist nickname is proof of intolerance in society. In a country where the overwhelming number of nicknames/mascots that appear as people are Native peoples, it is a sad attempt at practicing "tolerance". This country, white and non-white, would be vastly offended if a school such as the Missouri State Negroes existed, and the fact that claims of "honor" and "tradition" can overcome this racial discrepancy, is astounding!

I believe, however, a strong argument can be made that North Dakota's oldest and largest institution being associated with the name Sioux has enhanced honor, respect, and understanding of the proud Sioux Nation, their culture, and traditions.
If the only argument to be made for this continued practice is on the basis of how many "American Indian programs" exist at UND, then we should be able to just as easily justify the "UND Fighting Hockey Players", since they also represent a minority population on campus, with more than adequate financial assistance and institutional support and programs. The distinction is that Hockey players have not been oppressed and subjugated anywhere near the level D/L/Nakotans have been.

To discontinue this association will, in my opinion, only be a move toward isolation.
How? How is removing a nickname going to isolate anyone? Of course he doesn't explain this, because he doesn't have any explanation-- it's shallow rhetoric. Maybe it will "isolate" white-America from the notion that objectification of Native Americans is OK.

There is so much to be done by and for the American Indian citizens. Educational opportunities and individual success provide answers to many of the present day and nagging problems.
Again, there is no justification given as to how the "Fighting Sioux" nickname facilitates this. More "nagging problems" are being created by continuing to treat Native peoples as historical references-- such as "49ers", "Cowboys", and "Patriots"-- instead of a proud race of People.

It was many years ago when a number of elders from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation came to UND, and in an official ceremony made then-President George Starcher an honorary chief and officially blesses UND's use of the name Sioux.
Even Strinden himself says it was "many years ago" when this event occurred. Starcher was president from 1954 to 1971, not exactly a prime example of non-racism in this country. Most gains occurred after this period, through the American Indian Movement. In fact, it was only one year prior to the departure of Starcher (1970) that UNDIA actually began protesting inadequate Indian Studies programs and the nickname. Coincidence? Since then, Native peoples have become much more empowered and sovereign, and are now trying to reclaim their culture and heritage back from whites who are borrowing it for reasons of "honor" and "tradition".

UND has an investment in this name association now spanning almost 70 years.
He comes out and says it here: "UND has an investment in this name". Has it ever been anything else than an issue of investment? Be it monetary or ego, investment is the true reason this "controversy" continues. The "pride" factor is the justification for keeping it, not the main reason, in the eyes of a man who is the "CEO of the Alumni Association", a man's whose main task revolves around making UND alum happy enough to contribute lots of money. We concede that 70 years is a long time.... in fact, it is far too long.

It is my hope we will continue to have a respectful relationship which will serve UND and our American Indian citizens in a positive and responsible way.
On many occasions, Native and non-Native members of the UND community have told Strinden to his face that this is not a respectful relationship-- it is a parasitic one! A sense of "responsibility" would make Strinden renounce the poor taste and self-interest of those who in 1930 changed their school mascot to one of the most disenfranchised groups in the hemisphere, in an act of mockery. A sense of responsibility would convince Strinden that the righteous thing to do is to acknowledge, finally, that Native People are people, not mascots.

 


Tradition and Respect

The Fighting Sioux name issues seems to defy intellectual discussion. One person says it is insensitive and disrespectful. Another person believes UND's association with the name Sioux brings honor, understanding, and respect. With the Internet, many alumni across the nation and world are aware of what is happening at UND on a daily basis. We have received e-mails, phone calls, and letters on this issue, even though we have not written about this in the Alumni Review. I asked Brenda Ling, editor of the Alumni Review, to report to the alumni and to quote from American Indians who are on both sides. Her article is in this issue.

In the spring of 1999, I met with an American Indian leader who presented an idea for development of a new logo which he hoped could be used both on the reservation, as well as at UND.

When former President Kendall Baker precipitously dropped the Blackhawk logo, many letterwinners and alumni were upset. It was years ago when the Chicago Blackhawk NHL organization gave UND permission to use their logo. I expect the negative reaction to the decision to drop this long-standing and traditional logo was in part because the letterwinners were not allowed any involvement or provided any explanation prior to the decision. They rightfully believe they are the builders of our proud Fighting Sioux tradition, including national championships in hockey. There was an organized effort to bring the Blackhawk logo back, especially for the hockey uniforms. This, however, was not successful.

In my research of the name issue, it is obvious those who took the lead in promoting the change from Flickertails to the Sioux did this because they believe the Sioux name depicted an image of courage, overcoming adversity, winning battles, and determination. I believe UND was the first university established in what was once the Sioux Nation. Over the past years, UND has given a high priority to making educational opportunities available to the American Indian citizens. Today, we are one of the premier universities in the nation for successful American Indian programs. We are very proud to have within our alumni family a growing number of American Indians and take pride in their success in medicine, law, education, nursing, and may other careers.

Unfortunately, there is still intolerance in our society and some individuals will at times be irresponsible. I believe, however, a strong argument can be made that North Dakota's oldest and largest institution being associated with the name Sioux has enhanced honor, respect, and understanding of the proud Sioux Nation, their culture, and traditions. To discontinue this association will, in my opinion, only be a move toward isolation. There is so much to be done by and for the American Indian citizens. Educational opportunities and individual success provide answers to many of the present day and nagging problems.

It was many years ago when a number of elders from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation came to UND, and in an official ceremony made then-President George Starcher an honorary chief and officially blesses UND's use of the name Sioux. UND has an investment in this name association now spanning almost 70 years. It is my hope we will continue to have a respectful relationship which will serve UND and our American Indian citizens in a positive and responsible way.

 

Earl
estrinde@badlands.nodak.edu