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The Push to Eradicate Offensive Nicknames published in the Tulsa World

Point of View: The push to eradicate 'offensive' nicknames

By William J. Brotherton Published: December 23, 2015
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Are there any politically correct nicknames left? Or does every school in the United States have to call itself the Tigers, or the Lions? But maybe those names aren't even OK. After all, they're generally male and aggressive, and in today's political climate, that just won't do.

Example — a brouhaha at Western Washington University, where there is a “debate” about Victor E. Viking, who has symbolized the school for 90-plus years. Just as it started at the University of North Dakota, my alma mater, certain faculty started complaining about hurt feelings. In this case, a communications professor expressed concern that the mascot doesn't reflect the school's “commitment to diversity, our commitment to create a more safe and attractive and inclusive environment on campus.”

The new proposed nickname is the “Western Fern.” I'm sure someone will object to that also.

 

The professor went on to say that the “mascot also reflects a sort of hyper masculine, hyper violent sort of image which is doubly problematic. I think we really ought to reconsider.” A “student leader” complained that the mascot doesn't portray “students of color.”

How in the world is this school in the same country that generated millions of selfless young men and women who went to war to protect our freedoms? With students and professors like this, is it any wonder that ISIS is rampaging across the world?

I was lead counsel in a lawsuit filed against the University of North Dakota to stop its vote to replace the Fighting Sioux nickname, which it had since 1930. My alma mater is suffering as a result. It has a $5 million budget shortfall because alumni have stopped contributing, and it recently selected the name Fighting Hawks to be its new nickname. Only problem is that Dickinson State University right down the road has the Blue Hawks name. Oops!

Two of our plaintiffs were Sioux tribal members. And even the much-maligned Redskins name has Native American support. One such group is the Native American Guardians Association, which recently filed a federal brief in support of the Redskins name.

Somehow though, the march to purify every sports nickname seems to continue unabated. But it's not just about Native Americans.

How long before Notre Dame faculty and students question the overly masculine and violent Fighting Irish name? And what about the University of Oklahoma, and the Sooners nickname?

After all, Sooners are those privileged white people who jumped in their wagons and raced across Oklahoma in the Land Run of 1889 to take land that had belonged to the natives.

And is even the name Oklahoma safe? The state is named for “red people” in the Choctaw language (“okla” meaning people and “humma” meaning red).

So watch out Vikings fans. You'd better start looking for another nickname. And Oklahoma, start thinking about that new nickname also. And a new state name too!

Brotherton is the principal of the Brotherton Law Firm in Texas and a member of the Missisquoi Abenaki Nation in northern Vermont.

 

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

https://www.facebook.com/railroading/photos/pcb.920949644625070/92094917...

Back when I was working as a brakeman/conductor for Burlington Northern Railroad, it was this time a year that I got the busiest. When you were on the extra board, you were called the most during holidays and bad weather. I think I worked every Christmas and New Year’s, and probably Thanksgiving also, when I was a brakeman.

It was all part of the job.

So it was kind of neat when I was driving through North Dakota this past July and I saw one of my old locomotives that I worked. We were supposed to write down the numbers of the locomotives that we worked in our little United Transportation Union notebook to make sure that we were paid for each run we made.

As a result, I remember many of the numbers and as I drove by the grain facility in Crystal, North Dakota, I turned around to go look at the locomotive. It even looks like it’s in action, doesn’t it? See Link above for the pictures!

I was rarely furloughed during the winter and holiday months – it was usually in the summer when most people wanted to work because that was the nicest time of the year in North Dakota. Oh, those were the days!

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

 

 

 

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It’s time for North Dakota to do the right thing

           The Nickname Vote, now in its second stage with a third on the horizon, continues to inspire befuddlement. How could such a great institution like UND engage in such a farce? And now the latest – reports say that people are actually attempting to sell their votes! Shades of Chicago! As a UND graduate, I’m appalled!

            We all know the story. The NCAA declared that the Fighting Sioux name was hostile and abusive and had to go. The North Dakota attorney general’s office, on behalf of UND, filed suit against the NCAA and settled with a condition that agreement be reached with both the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux to allow the Fighting Sioux name to remain as the nickname for the University. This despite the fact that in 1969, both tribes gave the right to use the name in a “Sacred Pipe Ceremony”. Further, the NCAA, in a slap at North Dakota, allowed Florida State University to keep using the Seminole name with only the agreement of the Florida Seminole tribe. The Oklahoma Seminoles were disregarded.

            For three years now, UND has been playing sports as just North Dakota or UND. Controversy died down. That is, until, the president of UND, Robert Kelley, arbitrarily determined that it would be best to remove UND/North Dakota as an option to be voted on in the so-called “Nickname Vote”.

That decision was the primary impetus for plaintiffs Lavonne Alberts, Rich Becker and Bill Le Caine to file suit against the University of North Dakota. They intended to stop the madness of the Nickname Vote, which left out UND/North Dakota as a nickname option despite popular demand, and limited who was included as a UND “stakeholder”, with stakeholders being those who could vote for a new nickname.

But there was a roadblock that wasn’t expected. UND, represented by the attorney general’s office, claimed the vote really didn’t mean anything! They went on to tell the judge in the temporary restraining order hearing that in fact, the vote was just a “feeling out process”. The judge denied the temporary restraining order.

This “feeling out process” has, by UND’s own admission, cost the university somewhere around $300,000 when there is a reported five million dollar budget shortfall. And with participation around 25% and now votes being sold, isn’t it time for UND to simply say “we made a mistake”? 

            It’s apparent that UND president Robert Kelley wants to erase the last vestiges of the Fighting Sioux name as one of his final acts before he retires. But does North Dakota really want Mr. Kelley to serve as the unelected nickname czar? One of the primary arguments made in the lawsuit was that only the legislature has the authority to change the nickname of UND. It’s not too late for the legislature to step in and use its authority to stop a shunned, corrupted vote that is not only widely disliked, but is denigrating the prestige of the flagship university of the state.

It’s certainly evident that Mr. Kelly believes he is a nickname czar. He’s unilaterally changed the rules throughout the process. Let’s remove the UND/North Dakota voting option. Let’s add Nodaks in the runoff even though the runoff was supposed to only have 2 candidates. Let’s have a third runoff. Let’s limit the stakeholder group. 

Mr. Kelly and his administration preach “inclusion”. But he left the Sioux out of the stakeholder group even though donors to the University are a key component to the stakeholder group. The Sioux gave their name to UND and they’re not considered donors?

            In its lawsuit against the NCAA, UND stated that the University “received permission to use the Fighting Sioux name from the Sioux…. and that the name and logo are valuable commercial property.”

The University of North Dakota still has a chance to do the right thing. It claims to retain the rights to use the Fighting Sioux name and logo. Why not return those rights to the Sioux themselves to use for their benefit? UND claims that the name and logo are valuable commercial property; why let that be squandered?

And as far as the embarrassing Nickname Vote, let’s pull the plug. Let’s all take a deep breath and reevaluate together who should be in the stakeholder group. The Sioux should certainly be added. And any nickname vote should absolutely include the option of UND/North Dakota. That’s just North Dakota common sense.

 

William J. Brotherton (UND-1980) is the principal of the Brotherton Law Firm, a Texas civil litigation firm, and served as lead counsel in Alberts et al vs. University of North Dakota et al. He is a member of the Missisquoi Abenaki of Vermont, and the author of Burlington Northern Adventures: Railroading in the Days of the Caboose.

 

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Another Option for UND

Letter: Another option for UND

 

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I’m a member of the Missisquoi Abenaki in northern Vermont, through my grandmother, who was born in Quebec. I’m also a University of North Dakota graduate, Class of 1980. I don’t live in North Dakota. I live in Texas. So as I’m reading the letters regarding the Fighting Sioux issue, and The Forum editorial telling everyone to put the Fighting Sioux issue to bed, I feel compelled to speak out.

 

While in Vermont recently, I visited with our chief and tribal council regarding a number of local issues, and the topic of the Fighting Sioux came up. I asked the chief if he would object to the name “Fighting Abenaki.” He said, “Of course not.” We then talked about the opportunity presented in North Dakota for its tribes to share in revenues from the sale of Fighting Sioux items, using a name that ranks in name recognition right up there with the Seminoles, who struck a deal with Florida State University that was so lucrative for the tribe that the Seminoles have prospered almost beyond belief. He couldn’t understand why the Fighting Sioux name couldn’t be retained. I can’t either.

What’s preventing UND from sitting down with the Sioux tribes and working out a similar contract? Call me naïve, but the Fighting Sioux issue is just not going to go away. And it shouldn’t. It is the epitome of political correctness gone mad.

An example: The NCAA threatening punishment for UND if its fans continue to use chants with the Fighting Sioux name. Give me a break. With many college athletes throughout the country engaged in criminal activity and presenting themselves as thugs, the NCAA is going to go after innocuous chants?

Ridiculous.

North Dakota is special to me, and I’m especially appreciative of the university. I finished my undergraduate degree while working as a brakeman for the Burlington Northern Railroad. The school was great, and the professors were very supportive as I obviously missed a lot of classes. But I persisted and graduated, and I’ll always be grateful that UND worked with me so that I could graduate. I also felt a special bond to UND because of the Fighting Sioux name, which projected a proud uniqueness that I carried with me when I left North Dakota and ultimately moved to Texas and obtained a law degree.

I come to North Dakota often. I was there several weeks ago, and I traveled throughout the eastern part of the state and visited a number of people from Grand Forks to Walhalla. I wore a Fighting Sioux shirt on several occasions, and not once did I receive any sort of negative remark.

In Vermont a month or so ago, not one person objected to my Fighting Sioux shirt and certainly no one from my tribe. Indeed, many Vermonters spoke of how they regretted the loss of the Fighting Sioux name because of the hockey rivalry between the University of Vermont and UND.

Here’s my proposal. Let’s reopen the dialogue with the Sioux tribes and see if we can develop a partnership between the tribes and UND to equally share any revenues derived from the use of the Sioux name. If the term fighting is objectionable, why not the Proud Sioux or just the Sioux?

As I understand it, UND used to have an arrangement. A portion of the revenues realized from the sale of Fighting Sioux items was designated to go into a special fund for the benefit of Native American students. During the final years of the use of the name Fighting Sioux, I understand that some of those monies went into the university general fund. I believe this contributed to the sometimes fractious relationship between UND and the Sioux.

With the upcoming change in UND administration, this would seem to be the time to attempt to reconcile this issue. If we don’t make this effort now, our opportunity is squandered and lost forever. If UND and the Sioux tribes could come together in agreement, it would benefit not just UND and the tribes but all of North Dakota and, of course, Sioux fans everywhere.

Brotherton, UND class of ’80, is an attorney with the Brotherton Law Firm of Texas. Email william@brothertonlaw.com

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A Different Perspective Regarding the Sioux Name

 

            I’m a member of the Missisquoi Abenaki in northern Vermont, through my grandmother, who was born in Québec. I’m also a UND graduate, class of 1980. But I don’t live in North Dakota; in fact, I’m an attorney in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas. So as I’m reading the letters regarding the Fighting Sioux issue, and the opinion piece from the Fargo Forum telling everyone to put the Fighting Sioux issue to bed, I feel compelled to speak out.

            While in Vermont recently, I visited with our chief and tribal council regarding a number of local issues, and the topic of the Fighting Sioux came up. I asked the chief if he would object to the name “Fighting Abenaki”. He said “of course not”. We then talked about the opportunity presented in North Dakota for its tribes to share in revenues from the sale of Fighting Sioux items, utilizing a name that ranks in name recognition right up there with the Seminoles, who struck a deal with Florida State University that was so lucrative for the tribe, that the Seminoles have prospered almost beyond belief. He couldn’t understand why the Fighting Sioux name couldn’t be retained. I can’t either.

            What’s preventing the University of North Dakota from sitting down with the Sioux tribes and working out a similar contract? Call me naïve but the Fighting Sioux issue is just not going to go away. And it shouldn’t. It is the epitome of political correctness gone mad.

            An example – the NCAA threatening punishment for UND if its fans continue to use chants with the Fighting Sioux name. Give me a break. With many college athletes throughout the country engaged in criminal activity and presenting themselves as thugs with tattoos on every surface of their body, the NCAA is going to go after innocuous chants?

            Ridiculous.

            North Dakota is special to me and I’m especially appreciative of the University. I finished my undergraduate degree while working as a brakeman for the Burlington Northern Railroad. The school was great and the professors were very supportive as I obviously missed a lot of classes. But I persisted and graduated and I’ll always be grateful that UND worked with me so that I could graduate. I also felt a special bond to UND because of the Fighting Sioux name, which projected a proud uniqueness that I carried with me when I left North Dakota and ultimately moved to Texas and obtained a law degree. To be a Fighting Sioux met something to me as it obviously does to all the people who refuse to give up on the name.

I’m with them! 

I come to North Dakota often. I was in North Dakota several weeks ago and I traveled throughout the eastern part of the state and visited a number of people from Grand Forks to Walhalla. I also traveled in southern Manitoba. I wore a Fighting Sioux shirt on several occasions, and not once did I receive any sort of negative remark. In fact, everyone I spoke to lamented the fact that the name was no longer associated with the University. I found a general malaise in regards to what has happened with our Fighting Sioux name, and extreme disappointment in the debacle of hiring a consultant to come up with names like the Roughriders and the North Stars, which quite frankly haven’t generated a lot of enthusiasm. It says a lot when so many people just want the name to be “North Dakota” The name North Dakota itself is from a Sioux word meaning friend. I don’t think anyone appreciates the irony.

In Vermont a month or so ago, not one person objected to my Fighting Sioux shirt and certainly no one from my tribe. Indeed, many Vermonters spoke of how they regretted the loss of the Fighting Sioux name because of the hockey rivalry between the University of Vermont and UND.

            So here’s my proposal. Let’s reopen the dialogue with the Sioux tribes and see if we can develop a partnership between the Sioux tribes and UND to equally share any revenues derived from the use of the Sioux name. If the term fighting is objectionable, why not the Proud Sioux or just the Sioux?

            The Seminoles and Florida State University have made a similar arrangement work for the benefit of both, and their relationship even includes a Seminole warrior in traditional dress on a white stallion. I haven’t seen one iota of protest regarding this arrangement. I can’t see why it wouldn’t work in North Dakota.

As I understand it, UND used to have a similar arrangement. A portion of the revenues realized from the sale of Fighting Sioux items was designated to go into a special fund for the benefit of Native American students. During the final years of the use of the name Fighting Sioux, I understand that some of those monies went into the University general fund.  I believe this contributed to the sometimes fractious relationship between UND and the Sioux.

            With the upcoming change in UND administration, this would seem to be the time to attempt to reconcile this issue. If we don’t make this effort now, our opportunity is squandered and lost forever. I would certainly appreciate any communications from the Sioux tribes that want to try and make this proposal work. If UND and all of the Sioux tribes could come together in agreement, it would benefit not just UND and the Sioux tribes, but all of North Dakota and of course, Sioux fans everywhere.

William J. Brotherton is an attorney with the Brotherton Law Firm and may be contacted at william@brothertonlaw.com

 

 

 

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