At The Last Real Indians, Ruth Hopkins (a Sisseton Wahpeton and Mdewakanton Dakota/Hunkpapa Lakota) notes the latest in-your-face racism displayed by students at the University of North Dakota's Springfest. Here's a photo that appeared on Facebook and was sent to Hopkins by another member of her tribe:
In [the photo], non-Native UND students are wearing shirts that say ‘Siouxper Drunk.’ Beneath it, a stereotypical ‘Indian head’ reminiscent of the retired Fighting Sioux logo is pictured drinking from a beer bong. What followed the post were a string of comments from understandably infuriated Natives, many of whom were from the Spirit Lake Nation, the Dakota Tribe located closest to the UND campus.The drunken Indian stereotype is one of the more infuriating ones attached to us over the years. As a consequence of the European introduction of strong liquor to America, alcoholism, cirrhosis, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and other alcohol-related problems do plague Indians more than other ethnic groups. But the idea that Indians are genetically predisposed to become alcoholic, that we can't "hold our liquor," is a falsehood that just won't go away. The widespread and mistaken notion (boosted by these dreadful tee shirts) that we cannot as a people resist the allure of alcohol and are more susceptible to its effects, contributes to the idea that we are inferior, genetically and socially.
Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people comprise the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires), also known as The Great Sioux Nation. Oceti Sakowin were called ‘Sioux’ by their enemies.
The UND Fighting Sioux logo was retired after the NCAA concluded that the race-based mascot was hostile and abusive toward Native Americans. This decision was based on numerous complaints, affidavits, and an abundance of evidence collected over the years that proved the mascot was not only offensive, but detrimental and contrary to NCAA policy.
In fact, only a few points separate non-Indians from Indians when it comes to the percentages of people of all races who drink any alcohol and who drink to excess. While many tribes—the Navajo Nation, for instance—forbids sales of alcohol on their reservations, liquor is easily obtainable nearby. Whiteclay, Nebraska, for instance, an unincorporated community of 14 just across the South Dakota border, and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of the Oglala Lakota, exists almost solely on the sale of liquor to Indians.
Native students at UND responded to the offensive tee shirts on Twitter. Some participants have apparently apologized. But the image remains on the Twitter profile page of one of the progenitors of the tee shirts, Samuel Revering, whose handle is @Sioux—Sam. He is also decorated in redface, which is as offensive to Indians as blackface is to African Americans.
University of North Dakota administrators: you cannot afford to remain silent in the face of such arrogant bigotry. This mockery against Native people, this repugnant spectacle of racial intolerance, took place at your Springfest. An apology for allowing ‘Siouxper Drunk’ tees to be worn at your Springfest isn’t good enough. Sensitivity training will not suffice. Racially motivated incidents keep happening on the University of North Dakota campus. Implement a zero tolerance policy for any and all words, actions, and depictions that discriminate against Native Americans. Only by imposing automatic, pre-determined penalties for clearly defined, racially motivated infractions will you finally purge such shameful conduct from your institution. The onus is on you, not the Native Americans who are being subjected to this harassment and abuse.The UND episode is just one more example of how Indians continue to be treated with disrespect. Often, atop that disrespect comes a second layer, it's-just-a-joke-don't-you-have-a-sense-of-humor? And, why-are-you-complaining-about-this-and-team-mascots, when-there-are-so-many-other-issues-Indians-ought-to-be-concerned-about? As if we aren't fully familiar with all aspects of our situation in the 21st century.
UPDATE: The latest tweet from @Sioux—Sam: