Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The Continuing Indian Wars"

On Oct. 6, 2006, the University of North Dakota sued the NCAA for the to right retain the Fighting Sioux nickname, and logo, even though many other NCAA schools using Native American nicknames and logos have rightly capitulated on this issue (Thanks Todd, for the reference).

At first glance the logo does not look too offensive. Certainly, it is less offensive than Chief Wahoo. One might even argue that the "Fighting Sioux" nickname is honorable. That person might say the Sioux fought honorably, and for something good. Besides, there are many mascots that are based on acts of war (Knights, Raiders, Vikings, etc.), right? But, to get into this argument is to miss the point. Clay Jenkinson, Theodore Roosevelt scholar-in-residence at Dickinson State University states in Nick Coleman's November 18th column that, "North Dakotans are not racist, but they are racially insensitive...They think, 'I am not someone who doesn't like Indians; therefore, there isn't a problem.' What they don't understand is that one culture doesn't have the right to appropriate the iconography of another." I might add that this is especially true when given the history between whites in America and Native Americans.

A settlement in the lawsuit between UND and the NCAA was finally reached on October 26th. It gives UND three years to convince local Native American tribes that the nickname and the logo are not offensive. If the university is not successful in that time, the "Fighting Sioux" logo and nickname must go. The decision was handed down by, "Judge Lawrence Jahnke, who, it turned out, was a youthful member of a UND pep club that promoted the Sioux nickname and a cartoon stereotype named "Sammy Sioux." Thanks for that nugget Nick Coleman.

On the surface, this looks like a victory for Native Americans, but, in reality, it may turn out to be just another defeat in the long line of Native American defeats. Some thoughts from Clay Jenkinson, who wrote a piece for the Bismark Tribune immediately after the settlement was handed down,
The "settlement" not only prolongs a controversy that has already gone on far too long...[but] imposes impossible pressures on North Dakota's Indian communities. The settlement will create new and entirely unnecessary tensions between the white and Indian community. Notice that the tense debate is being moved from its proper sphere (UND) to a completely innocent sphere (the reservation).
The compromise is likely to do damage to North Dakota's Indians, particularly the Dakota and Lakota (Sioux), and it is likely to worsen white-Indian relations in North Dakota. If UND manages to "convince" the Indian leadership that "Fighting Sioux" is inoffensive, many white people will make cynical comments about the "payoff," the annuities wagon of programs, gifts, emoluments, research projects and other benefits that UND will be offering North Dakota's Indians in return for their "understanding.
I can already hear whites whispering about how lucky Native Americans are because they all profit from casinos.

Is history repeating itself?
Extravagant promises already have been made by UND to North Dakota's Indians. More are coming.

But here's the worst of it. If, in the course of three years, North Dakota's Indian community refuses to be convinced of the "harmlessness of Fighting Sioux," all the angst that this silly controversy has generated - anger, sense of betrayal, feeling of persecution by the NCAA and the forces of "political correctness," loss of control, the charge of racism - will be turned on the people who least deserve it.

This is a very old and sad story. Historically, when white people have wanted something from Indians, they have sent emissaries with presents and promises. The presents typically have been patched together to get the job done at the least expense. The promises have been as empty as they sometimes have been offered in good earnest. Historically, when Indians have balked at the white man's blandishments, the pile of presents and promises has grown, and the threat level has been increased from orange to red. As often as not, white emissaries have then sought out more cooperative leaders (divide and conquer is the rule), and employed liquor as a mode of persuasion. On those occasions when Indians have refused to sell at any cost, the whites historically have just taken what they wanted, as de Tocqueville put it, with as much violence as necessary, but under the happy cloak of legality.

This is the procedure by which the Black Hills were stolen from the Sioux (Lakota) and the Cheyenne. This is the method by which the boundaries of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara "reservation" were steadily shrunken from the 1851 Fort Laramie settlement (12 million acres) to the current fragment (1 million acres). This is the procedure by which the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa were "persuaded" to cede their best 152,360 acres to be inundated by Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea.
Hopefully, Jenkinson is wrong and history fails to repeat itself. "Now, the last hope for decency is that the University of North Dakota behaves like an institution of higher learning. There's always a first for everything." Well said Nick Coleman.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Wolves Suck, Buth There's Always the 2008 NBA Draft

The Minnesota Timberwolves are now 0-5, one of three teams remaining without a win. While Randy Wittman has the kids playing hard, valuing defense, this team is just too young to have much success this season, even when Randy Foye returns from injury. There is reason for optimism though: the 2008 NBA draft. At this pace, the Timberwolves will not only end up with a lottery pick in the draft, they should end up with a top five pick. So, here's a list of the most talented NBA prospects entering this 2007-08 collegiate season. Click each name, read each scouting report, watch the Youtube clips, and begin fantasizing about next year.
  • O.J. Mayo Ht: 6'5" Wt: 210 College: USC Position: PG/SG Year: Freshman
  • Derrick Rose Ht: 6'4" Wt: 195 College: Memphis Position: PG Year: Freshman
  • Eric Gordon Ht: 6'4" Wt: 220 College: Indiana Position: PG/SG Year: Freshman
  • Michael Beasley Ht: 6'9" Wt: 235 College: Kansas St. Position: SF/PF Year: Freshman
  • Kevin Love Ht: 6'9" Wt: 260 College: UCLA Position: PF Year: Freshman
  • Kosta Koufos Ht: 7'1" Wt: 260 College: Ohio St. Position: C Year: Freshman
  • Roy Hibbert Ht: 7'2" Wt: 278 College: Georgetown Position: C Year: Senior
  • Chase Budinger Ht: 6'7" Wt: 215 College: Arizona Position: SG Year: Sophomore
  • DeAndre Jordan Ht: 7'0" Wt: 250 College: Texas A&M Position: C Year: Freshman
  • Nicolas Batum Ht: 6'8" Wt: 210 Team: Le Mans, France Position: SG/SF Born: 1988

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wisdom from Jim Bishop, "Castle Builder"

I never really thought of it that way. Thanks Jim.

UPDATE (11-16-07): I just googled "Jim Bishop Castle Builder" and found the castle on Roadside America's website. I now have five dreams in life: see the Yankees at Yankee stadium, watch KG at the Boston Garden, backpack in Europe, take a safari in South Africa, and visit the Bishop Castle in Beulah, Colorado. Visit the site here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Watchdogs Are Coming After Televangelists

Iowa Senator Charles E. Grassley (the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee) has launched an investigation into the finances of six prominent televangelists: 1) Creflo A. Dollar; 2) Paula and Randy White; 3) Benny Hinn; 4) Joyce Meyer; 5) Kenneth and Gloria Copland; and, 6) Bishop Eddie Long. Because these are tax exempt ministries, all contributions must be used for tax exempt purposes. Grassley is investigating whether these ministries are using contributions for personal use, a violation of the tax code. The New York Times story is here.

Following Ben Witherington's advice, I checked out, a reliable Christian watchdog organization that has been featured on 20/20, and so far it has investigated over 400 churches and Christian ministries, providing detailed reports of many. The goal of Ministry Watch is to facilitate "the practical expression of one's stewardship calling by creating an environment that promotes increasing confidence in, and generosity towards, the Lord's causes." Currently on the Donor Alert list are TBN, Benny Hinn ministries, and the Christian Children's Fund. Usually, the common denominators among ministries that make this list include a lack of financial transparency and leadership that is not held accountable. I encourage you to check out

The irony in all of this is that I am now more compelled to give my money to this watchdog organization than any other ministry it has investigated.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

We Are Responsible for Chief Wahoo

When the Cleveland Indians were in the midst of their collapse against the now World Champion Boston Red Sox, Kansas City blogger Joe Posnanski wrote an interesting piece about the Cleveland Indians' logo, Chief Wahoo (the logo in the top left quadrant pictured above). After writing a detailed history of Cleveland's mascots and logos, which I suggest you check out, he rightly concludes,
Wahoo is an inherentry racist symbol. Nobody could really deny this. Nobody could look at that grinning mug and say, “No, it’s really a flattering portrayal of Native Americans, who were conquered, nearly wiped off the planet by our ancestors and then forced to live on reservations.”...The thing is, I think so many of us were raised to think of Indians as cartoon characters, as movie villains, as the Native American who had a tear in his eye because people kept dumping garbage all over this great land, that we have become desensitized.
Native Americans are not the first minority group to be caricatured, and shaped into an archetype. Images of the lazy, foolish African-American Sambo, based on the blackface minstrel were popular throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries until challenged by the Civil Rights Movement in the '50s and '60s. Japanese Americans were depicted as devious, cunning villains in World War II propaganda even though not one Japanese-American betrayed the United States during the war. Finally, Jews were portrayed as untrustworthy, and evil by Nazis, and used as scapegoats for the collapse of the German empire.

So, where is the outrage? Does no one else see a relationship between these images? If we were to slap any of the above mentioned racist images on the Cleveland ballcap, the entire nation would be outraged. Imagine the blackface minstrel as your local sports team's logo? Would that be ok? Or the Nazi image of the Jew. Ok? Or what about the Minnesota "Japs" complete with a logo that has the steretypical big teeth? Not gonna fly. So, how is it that Chief Wahoo gets a free pass? How has Chief Wahoo gone untouched since 1950? Posnanski has an answer,
The only reason Chief Wahoo is around is because Native Americans don’t have a strong enough voice in this country to put a stop to it. When Native Americans protested at the 1997 World Series, they were mostly laughed at. Three were arrested. Is this really the kind of country we want to be? And for what? To stand up for our inherent rights to enjoy a racist sports logo?
In 2001, the United States Commission on Civil Rights issued a statement offering guidelines for the use of Native American symbols, suggesting they not be used in non-Native American schools (read it here), effectively denouncing Chief Wahoo. However, the statement has spurred no real change, and as Posnanski pointed out, Native American civil rights organizations don't have the "strong voice" that similar organizations of women, African Americans, or Latinos have, making change more difficult. This is one of the many tragic effects the policy of assimilation and allotment to reservations have had upon the Native American community.

So, that leaves this issue to the non-Native American community. We can assist Native American civil rights organizations, strengthening their voice, or we can speak up ourselves. Maybe Chief Wahoo is not your battle, but is there a local high school who is ignoring the the 2001 Statement of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the Use of Native American Images and Nicknames as Sports Symbols? Ultimately, it comes down to the kind of society we want to be apart of, "one that stands up for the inherent rights to enjoy a racist sports logo," or one who responds to victims of discrimination, no matter the strength of their voice.