The University of North Dakota recently changed its team name from the Fighting Sioux to the Fighting Hawks.
Voters picked the new name through an online vote in mid-November. The “Fighting Hawks” name beat out all the other options, winning 57 percent of the vote. “Roughriders” came in a close second with 43 percent.
The team dropped its original name in 2012 because of pressure from the NCAA. From 2012 until the recent name change, UND had competed only as “North Dakota.”
“Fighting Hawks” is now being used officially on the school’s website. UND will eventually utilize it during sporting events.
While the elimination of an offensive name is a positive thing, I feel this new name may take a while to implement. We should consider that although the school officially discontinued the name “Fighting Sioux” in 2012, the name stuck among the student population.
I’m a former North Dakota State University student. That school rivals UND, and I can report that our chants to our rival team often involved the Fighting Sioux’s name — the most popular of these were rather vulgar.
This continued even after the Sioux name was dropped in 2012. While I never participated in some chants because I thought they were offensive, my fellow students used them at nearly every game NDSU played against UND.
This shows it’s going to take a great deal of effort to eliminate these old names. When dealing with students, administrators at UND and its rival colleges need to reinforce the idea that the Fighting Sioux are now the Fighting Hawks — any offensive names must not be tolerated.
This is especially relevant because issues like this one affect the whole country. UND is not the only place with change in the air.
To that end, there’s also some debate about changing the Chicago Blackhawks’ logo, which currently portrays a stereotypical American Indian head complete with face paint and a feathered headdress.
The proposed design change, created by Ojibwe artist Mike Ivall, features a black hawk with colorful feathers embedded into its neck to match the team’s color scheme.
The new design not only embodies the team name more accurately, but also (hopefully) steers clear of offending any American Indians who don’t take kindly to being stereotyped by a sports team logo.
Ghislain Picard, who heads the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, fully supports the design proposal. For him, eliminating the “Indian head” logo is simply respectful.
Issues of insensitivity to American Indians are unfortunately present in many sports teams, ranging from the Blackhawks to the Washington Redskins and the Kansas City Chiefs — just to name a few.
Fortunately, UND has set an excellent example for how to move forward. It is crucial that we continue to remove images of the stereotypical American Indian from American sports teams.