Resolution before Student’s Association sparks debate

Matthew Amon

Matthew Amon

What is the difference between a Fighting Dutchman and a Fighting Sioux? If you ask Senator Scott Smit, he might tell you that he takes pride in his Dutch heritage and high school mascot.

If you ask Native American students at North Dakota State University, they might tell you that they are proud of their Native heritage but that the Fighting Sioux mascot is demeaning.

This issue came to bear this week when the Student Senate debated a controversial resolutions proposed by the Native American Club at SDSU.

The resolution calls upon the Student Senate to encourage all non-Indian educational institutions to discontinue using American Indian names and symbols.

Senator Nicole Chrisotpherson said that the issue was a matter of principle and perspective.

Vice President Betsy Suter urged the Senate to consider the perspective of Native American students on campus who voted unanimously for the resolution.

Advisor Dr. Johnson talked briefly about his experience at a Native American school and the prejudice he encountered.

He told Senators that, “If you want to be the student’s voice, be leaders and not followers.”

Associate Professor of Journalism Doris Giago, an Oglala Sioux, said that it is unfortunate that a higher education school must be convinced it is wrong.

The resolution passed with a solid majority, but not without considerable dissent.

Senator Kevin Maxwell said that many schools have American Indian mascots that are treated with respect.

Some Senators also felt that issue arbitrarily divided schools along Indian and non-Indian lines.

Senator Tiffany Stiner questioned the monetary and cultural costs of replacing long standing American Indian traditions in many South Dakota schools.

Charles Woodard, chairman of the Native American Club Advisory Committee, said he was appreciative of the thoughtful discussion and the resolutions eventual approval.

“I heard people respectfully speaking from the heart,” Woodard said.