Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Still fighting to be Sioux: Local author recounts nickname battles

  • While the Sioux of the late nineteenth century fought in many heroic battles to preserve their national identity, Dakota Sioux today fight on many fronts against a political correctness that threatens to erase their name and cultural identity forever from American society.Thus claims local author Eunice Davidson who has p...
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  • While the Sioux of the late nineteenth century fought in many heroic battles to preserve their national identity, Dakota Sioux today fight on many fronts against a political correctness that threatens to erase their name and cultural identity forever from American society.
    Thus claims local author Eunice Davidson who has published "Aren’t We Sioux Enough?" It is a gripping account of the loss of the UND nickname "Fighting Sioux" told from the perspective of a full blood Dakota Sioux woman.
    "In an education system that is slowly erasing our true history and turning us into helpless victims, these names and images give us pride and are dedicated to an honorable and valiant people and exhibit our strength," Davidson says, "They keep us alive in a world trying to get rid of us."
    The controversy over the UND nickname "Fighting Sioux" began in 2006 when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) gave exemptions on Native names and images to eight other Universities but held ND to a different standard.
    The state of ND filed a lawsuit against the NCAA Executive Committee and there ensued a long legal battle to retain the "Fighting Sioux" nickname. In Davidson’s book, "Aren’t We Sioux Enough?" she details the timeline of events and calls attention to abuses of power by both University administration and government officials that led to the silencing of a majority of Dakota people on the issue.
    Davidson relates the history of the "Fighting Sioux" nickname in her book. First used in the 1930s, the nickname was reaffirmed in 1969 by Davidson’s grandmother Alvina Alberts and other spiritual leaders from the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock tribes through a sacred ceremony. The name was given to UND forever in return for educational opportunities for the Sioux people.
    In a settlement between the NCAA and the state of ND, both parties agreed to leave the decision about the nickname and logo to a vote of the Sioux tribes. Bernard Franklin, Executive Vice President and Chief Inclusion Officer of the NCAA, agreed that the tribes should vote on the controversy.
    "I joined [The Committee for Understanding and Respect] in February 2008 and we were acting in response to the Settlement/Agreement which called for a vote by the Tribes," Davidson recalls, "As I have said before we were only doing what was asked of us in the Settlement. We didn’t know at the time that they really didn’t mean it. Our goal was to let the Tribal Members decide as Bernard Franklin of the NCAA had said we should."
    According to U.S. Federal Census information, 90% of eligible voters turned out for the vote. Davidson claims that it was because of the nickname issue and that it was the largest turnout for a Spirit Lake election on record. 67% of voters, a clear majority, voted to keep the nickname.
    Page 2 of 3 - However, the Standing Rock Tribe refused to let the issue come to a vote. Davidson claims that Chairman Ron His Horses Thunder of Standing Rock said that he "didn’t care if 100% of the people of Standing Rock supported the name and image, they would not be allowed to speak" while he was speaking on May 14th, 2009 at a State Board meeting.
    Davidson also recounts the media’s bias during that time: "They did not print that the new requirements added on May 14th, 2009 just after Spirit Lake’s vote, were a violation of the Settlement/Agreement. I don’t believe I ever saw a story in the local media about how 90% of Native Americans support names and images (Sports Illustrated, Pennsylvania Annenberg Election Survey and others), but I did see a lot of stories where white people are speaking for us Indians, telling us what we are supposed to feel. I did see stories where the intelligence of the Spirit Lake members was questioned by UND Staff after our vote."
    Throughout her book, Davidson returns to the idea that political correctness has been a tool in the hands of those who want to remove the names and images of Native American tribes.
    "Political correctness is nothing more than hiding the truth for personal gain," she says, "In this case no one has proof of even one case where someone became a racist because of a name or image. There are hundreds of cases to prove the damage done to the Native Community by these so-called caring people. The progress made over the last hundred years of bringing two cultures together is now being distorted. A wedge is being driven between us again."
    Other Dakota Sioux have disagreed with Mrs. Davidson and nickname supporters. Media outlets such as Lastrealindians.com have argued with the NCAA that supporters of the "Fighting Sioux" nickname should attend mandatory sensitivity training. The Standing Rock Tribe steadfastly refused to allow the issue to come to a vote of the whole tribe. In 2012, the state of ND was allowed to vote on the issue and 68% voted to retire the "Fighting Sioux" nickname.
    In "Aren’t We Sioux Enough?" Davidson recounts the highs and lows of her people's struggle to be heard. "We worked through the District Court, North Dakota Supreme Court, Federal District Court and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals only to be shot down at every turn," she says, "Our goal now is to give voice to the 90% majority of Native Americans who have been shut out of any debate and must just suffer the consequences."
    Mary Schofield, an author and teacher, has written of "Aren’t We Sioux Enough?" that it is a "heartbreaking, meticulously written account of one prong of the fight to save the Fighting Sioux logo: the fight of the modern faithful Sioux who know what the battle is: the battle to preserve the honor of the mighty Sioux nation."
    Page 3 of 3 - "Aren’t We Sioux Enough?" has been available for purchase since May 2014 and was published through Create Space. Customers can purchase it through www.amazon.com or by sending $25 to Aren't We Sioux Enough P. O. Box 716 Devils Lake, ND 58301. This covers shipping costs, and your copy will be signed by the author. Please include a note for personalization. Also, readers can keep up with Mrs. Davidson and nickname supporters on www.facebook.com/arentwesiouxenough
    Mrs. Davidson intends to continue writing about the history of her people. A story that intrigues her is about Waanatan, a Dakota Sioux chief who was rumored to have been a descendant of Meriwether Lewis. She wants to share the pride she takes in her heritage.
    She says, "I have a lot of passion for the use of our Native names by Universities, schools, states, lakes, and mountains. The Fighting Sioux name and logo has brought so many cultures together. How could anyone ever think it causes racism?"
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