Let me get this out of the way immediately: the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawk’s victory over Quinnipiac was an impressive display of athleticism. The men on the ice worked hard for this win and absolutely deserved it. My Bison Pride does not interfere with my ability to recognize, and even celebrate, this achievement.
That being said, I am thoroughly disappointed in the way North Dakota was represented on the national stage.
Issue one: the persistence of cheering for the Fighting Sioux. It is embarrassing to see a mascot, perceived by many to be racially insensitive at best, so emphatically championed during one of our state’s brief moments in the spotlight.
It was 16 years ago that a collection of faculty representing UND’s Indian Related Programs wrote the nickname was perceived as “promoting the oppression of Native people, and placing UND at great risk for practicing and promoting state-supported, institutionalized racism.”
Furthermore, you do us no favors with hashtags like #RollTribe, as any diversity scholar worth his or her salt can describe the racially and stereotypically-charged history of that word. And no matter how desperately you claim to be honoring the native peoples of this land, the reality is that you care more about a college mascot than the people it purportedly represents.
Even if I give you the benefit of the willfully ignorant and suppose the mascot is in no way racist (I don’t), you still show North Dakotans as stubborn people who refuse to change.
Regardless if you agree with the NCAA’s decision, the fact remains that UND’s official mascot is the Fighting Hawks. End of story.
The blanket rejection of this moniker by such a large portion of the fan base reflects poorly on us all.
The Quinnipiac Bobcats used to be the Quinnipiac Braves, but you didn’t hear their fans screaming that name throughout the championship.
In fact, I’d be willing to bet that you didn’t even know that. Why? Because they understand the importance of their change in mascot, and don’t go out of their way to bring it up.
Beyond the issue of the nickname, which I fear will take decades to put to rest, there is the reaction of the UND student body to the victory. One tweet bragged that the win resulted in “12 street signs tore [sic] down, 6 couches set on fire, 3 street lights broken, and 1 car flipped.” As of this writing, that particular tweet has 80 retweets and 200 likes. The Bison have won five consecutive national championships and have never caused destruction on this scale.
This is not something that should be laughed off as the playful antics of excited sports fans. This behavior is thoroughly unbecoming of students at what claims to be our state’s flagship university.
You’ll notice I’m not even trying to hide behind my usual satire. Like it or not, we are our brother’s keeper. And if we do not stand up to tell our friends to the North that we expect better from them, who will?