[Ed. – Emphasis added. Because I just can’t help myself.]
American colleges and universities have now largely abandoned Native American nicknames and logos that many find offensive. In 2012, following a battle that had lasted years, the University of North Dakota dropped its Fighting Sioux nickname, which had been used by its athletic teams since 1930. Since then, the North Dakota teams have played without a nickname, something virtually unheard of in American sports. This year, having completed a two-year “cooling-off period,” the university will begin the process of selecting a new nickname. The old name, however, does not look like it will be forgotten quickly.
On a frigid Friday night in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in November, I joined the throngs of UND hockey fans as they filed into the palatial Ralph Engelstad Arena to watch their team, a perennial college hockey powerhouse ranked No. 2 in the nation, take on No. 7 Miami University RedHawks from Oxford, Ohio, where I grew up.
“Let’s go, Sioux!” shouted one fan disembarking from a shuttle bus. “Who said that?” asked another, in mock indignation over the utterance of the banned name. “Everyone,” deadpanned a third.
And indeed, minutes later, when the public address announcer marked the arrival of the home team to the ice with, “Here comes the University of North Dakota … ” seemingly all 11,537 in attendance filled in the blank by bellowing “SIOUX!” …
I don’t think that there is an easy solution to UND’s quandary, but I would like to suggest one possibility: returning to the nickname that was replaced by Fighting Sioux in 1930, the Flickertails. A flickertail is a squirrel native to North Dakota and was seen by many at the university at the time as not tough enough to serve as a mascot. The same criticisms would probably be leveled today, but I would argue that insistence on a hyperaggressive mascot is indicative of insecurity about being a small-time school.