February 21, 2007

Oh, why not. . .

I should start this post with a preface:

Nick Coleman writes about people and events in the metro area. His column appears in the Metro section on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

So, with that in mind, consider the headline to his latest "column."

Nick Coleman: Illinois shows North Dakota what is the truly honorable thing

A Minnesota, Twin Cities metro columnist, writes about Illinois and North Dakota. Makes sense, I guess, in a totally nonsense sort of way. But, hey, it's the Strib, where nonsense is spelled N-E-W-S.

Chief Illiniwek gets the ax tonight. The Fighting Sioux nickname should be next. Sometimes, despite everything, there is progress.

Just not in anything Nick Coleman writes.

For 80 years, "Chief Illiniwek" has been what fans of the University of Illinois have called the barefoot white boys who have sported buckskin and feathers and aped American Indian dances during football and basketball games. The Chief is a throwback to the days when a conquering culture thought it could spoof racial stereotypes and "honor" people by making them into tumblers and clowns.

Yeah, like, say, the FIGHTING IRISH!

But after tonight, the Chief will be history.

In retiring him, Illinois will have succumbed to rulings from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

"Succumbed" is the right word here. Kudos to Nick for accidentally getting something right, at least.

More importantly, Illinois will have bowed to common decency: You can't "honor" people by offending them.

Heaven forbid, the horrible specter of "offense," should rear its ugly head. Offending people nowadays is easier than making fun of Nick Coleman's writing, which is REALLY saying something.

Chief Illiniwek makes his last dance when the Illinois men's basketball team hosts Michigan. The end of the road for this symbol of -- what, exactly? White boy nimbleness? -- has not brought out the best in the students and alumni of Illinois. But it has proved that the NCAA is on the right track.

See, now, I imagine if the chosen dancer in question has historically been of Native American descent, Nick would have no problem with this tradition? Right? Yeah, I didn't think so. It's because the nefarious dancin' injuns have more often than not been white that Nick is so indignant. I'm sure it doesn't bother Nick, though, that the "indian" who famously shed a tear over trash "Iron Eyes Cody," wasn't even an indian. Where's Nick's outrage about that? Why, there's a Sicilian, shamelessly stereotyping the Native American tendency to weep in the presence of garbage. FOR SHAME!

"If They Get Rid of the Chief I'm Becoming a Racist" was the name of an online site joined by more than 100 students, whose vile posts about Indians showed they didn't need to worry about becoming racists.

They are well on the way.

Oh, good God, there goes the Journalistic Investigator-In-Chief, Nick Coleman, consulting an Internet site to make his point. This is the same guy who once used a commenter on Craigslist.com to anchor his column. His research is just impeccable. A whole 100 students, eh? Of the three U of Illinois campuses, there are nearly 70,000 students. That means Little Nick is using a sampling of .0014 of one percent to make his case. BRA-VO.

Still, the disappearance of an obnoxious minstrel act will be good for Illinois, and it may be good for North Dakota, too.

Speaking of an obnoxious minstrel act, we're in the middle of a Nick Coleman column. Ironical.

With each cleansing of a racial caricature from the sports scene, the pressure mounts on the "Fighting Sioux" logo and name of the University of North Dakota, which finds itself in a small rump group of nickname offenders.

Yeah, because "The Fighting Sioux," is just so offensive. Perhaps they should be renamed "The Creampuff Reservationists." Honestly, if it weren't for some Native American mascots and symbols, some people wouldn't even know what an "Indian" is.

At this point, the arguments North Dakota puts forward for keeping the name aren't the issue. The question is what kind of university wants to put its name and reputation through the wringer in defense of "honoring" a tribe whose representatives have said time and time again -- despite bogus claims by those who deny it -- that they don't consider it an honor to be reduced to a nickname.

Yeah, even though the logo itself was designed by a Native American. That must be a bogus claim. In 1969, a band of Sioux Indians from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation formally gave UND the right to use the name Fighting Sioux for its athletic teams. Only into today's culture of ridiculously alarmist political correctness could Nick Coleman get away with calling that a bogus claim.

Last fall, using alumni donations that would be better spent in the classroom, UND took the NCAA to court, challenging the group's finding that the "Fighting Sioux" logo and nickname are "hostile and abusive." Since many of the Sioux tribes in the Dakotas have come to the same conclusion, it would have been civil to bow to the NCAA ruling.

You know what? fuck it. Nick's right. Let's get rid of the Sioux logo and mascot. In fact, let's get rid of all Native American imagery completely. Let's re-name Minnesota, and the Dakotas, and Missouri and every other state with Native American connotations. I mean, they must offend SOMEONE, right? And, we don't want to offend ANYONE, because if someone takes offense to something, well, that positively means it's a bad thing. I can just imagine the renewed offense when, suddenly, Sioux imagery is erased from UND, replaced by Flickertail imagery. Yeah, THAT will go over like a turd in punch bowl.

Forget civility. When North Dakota honors Indians, they better stay "honored." The only good Indian is an honored Indian. What a waste of time and money by a university that remains in the thrall of dead casino operator and Nazi memorabilia collector Ralph Engelstad, who gave UND $100 million to build the Taj Mahal of hockey arenas and festooned it with thousands of Fighting Sioux logos so it would be easier to tear down than to remove them all.

There goes Nick again with his odd tirade against Nazi collector, Engelstad. As if that has anything to do with ANYTHING. This is how I imagine Coleman's brain works:

Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. NAZI. Fighting Sioux bad. NAZI. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad. Fighting Sioux bad.

Hmmm. Not a bad idea.

Yep, tear down a $100 million dollar hockey arena. That's Nick Coleman's idea of a decent idea. Thank God he doesn't have them very often.

Each time I write about this issue (I haven't since June), I am accused of knowing nothing about it.

Nick Coleman knows stuff, damnit! Now watch Nick hoist himself aloft upon his mighty high horse and snap into defensive mode.

Permit me: I have reported on racist nicknames and Indian issues for 20 years and wrote a lengthy magazine piece on the Fighting Sioux problem in 2001 that delved into the "Nazi memorabilia collector" (yes, I love to say that) part of Engelstad's past. You can find a copy online at: www.und.edu/org/bridges/coleman.html. Be sure to read about the matching life-size portraits of Hitler and Engelstad -- both in Nazi uniforms -- that Engelstad put on the walls at his secret Hitler birthday parties as a "joke."

Shorter Nick Coleman: I have written about Indian problems and a Nazi memorabilia collector, which I find to be inextricably related, for reasons that make sense only to me. I mean, seriously, what the fuck? The fact Engelstad was an eccentric Nazi-collecting nutjob has NOTHING TO DO WITH Indian problems.

You'll laugh yourself sick.

Hey, I do that when I read most of Nick's writing.

The university's misguided lawsuit goes to court in December. Even if it succeeds at overturning NCAA procedures, the NCAA says it simply will change its procedures and continue to enforce its eminently sensible and important conclusion:

The Fighting Sioux name and logo, like Chief Illiniwek, are relics of the past.

Not the honored past.

The shameful past.

One can only anxiously await the day when Nick Coleman is relagated to the same status.

Posted by Ryan at February 21, 2007 12:36 PM | TrackBack

Just FYI --

Reportedly, American Indians prefer to be referred to as such, as according to their own folklore, calling them "Native Americans" suggests that they are descended from dogs.

Personally, I'm always irritated by people being offended "on behalf" of somebody else; I prefer to hear it from the horse's mouth. How many actual Indians came forward and said they were offended by Illiniwek? Or was it just a bunch of feel-good white boy libruls?

Posted by: Stephen Rider at February 25, 2007 06:13 PM
StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!