August 8, 2005

NCAA bans basketball teams with Indian tribe names from March tournament:

Even though the Florida State Seminoles have the permission of the Seminole tribe of Florida for use of their name, they couldn't participate in the March Madness tournament under that name. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are, no doubt, a-ok, because, well, you know, just because...

Back in 2001, I suggested a "A win-win solution to Indian team name disputes."

The current firestorm over whether the University of North Dakota should drop their sports teams' nickname of the Fighting Sioux is neither the first nor likely to be the last such dispute. There are a roughly estimated 2,000 schools using Indian names, providing endless opportunities for racial activists.

Yet, are Indian nicknames truly racist and demeaning? After all, schools don't name their sports teams after things they hold in contempt. For example, the U. of North Dakota chose Fighting Sioux in 1930 to lord it over the North Dakota State Bison.

Protestors often ask, "Think how shocking it would be if some school chose in 1930 to call its teams the Negroes or the Coloreds!" Indeed, it would be shocking to find such a school, precisely because anti-black racism was once so monolithic. There are no American schools that cheer for the Fighting Fulanis or Mighty Zulus. This was not because whites used to respect blacks, but because they used to publicly despise them.

In contrast, whites always held profoundly mixed emotions about American Indians. Settlers wanted to grab the Indian's land, but they were also impressed by how bravely the Indians resisted. Ultimately, the white man required 305 years - from Sir Walter Raleigh's founding of the ill-fated Roanoke colony in 1585 to the closing of the frontier in 1890 - to steal America from the red man.

"One drop of black blood" made a part white-part black person subject to enslavement or, later, Jim Crow. In contrast, millions of Americans boasted of Indian ancestors. And so did at least one Englishman. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was publicly proud of being, according to Jerome family lore, one sixteenth Iroquois. Churchill's maternal grandmother reigned as a major high society battle-ax in New York, London, and Paris, despite being one quarter Indian. Her mixed-race heritage did not stop her from marrying off her daughter to the son of the Duke of Marlborough.

Much of the current controversy over football teams using Indian names stems from the fact that in the old days whites admired Native Americans for virtues that are now politically suspect. They respected Indians for their skills as hunters and warriors, which are not exactly the most admired occupations among the cultural establishment these days.

Early 20th century whites esteemed traditional Indian cultures for inculcating manliness, ferocity, bravery, stoicism, self-sacrifice, taciturnity, and dignity. These are exactly the qualities that make for a winning football team, so pre-WWII whites rushed to name their squads after Indian tribes.

Then, however, the feminist and civil rights revolutions introduced new social ideals. These lead to Oprah Winfrey - emotional, garrulous, glib, and shameless - becoming the prototypical modern American.

In this new cultural environment, where Bill Clinton promised to "feel your pain," American Indians, whose ancestors taught them to try not to feel even their own pain, became increasingly irrelevant. Middle class boys of two generations ago were often obsessed with learning "Indian lore." In contrast, today's boys almost never even think about Indians. Their role models are now the utter opposite - rappers, who embody the verbosity and braggadocio that Indians traditionally abhorred.

Since we pay so little attention to the real virtues of Indians anymore, it's been easy for us to invent fantasies depicting them as politically correct Noble Savages. Today, schools try to indoctrinate kids into believing that Indians were sensitive ecologists and, hilariously, feminists.

In this mental environment, nicknames like "Fighting Sioux" sound like racist stereotypes. Who could imagine a Sioux ever doing something so patriarchal and dead-white-European-male-like as fighting? (Well, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and George Armstrong Custer could.)

Not surprisingly, modern boys listen to this school room propaganda, assume that American Indians must have been total dweebs, and go back to listening to Master P rap about how many millions he's making.

Fortunately, the Arcadia H.S. Apaches and the White Mountain Apache tribe have shown that there can be a win-win solution to these nickname controversies, which can help generate more interest in American Indians. [More]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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