Fighting the Fighting Sioux Brand

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Yet another brand built around an ethnic stereotype has entered modern times.

The North Dakota Fighting Sioux brand, used for the school’s athletics programs, appears to be coming to an end. October 1 is the deadline for the school to reach a settlement with Native American Sioux tribes if it wishes to continue using the nickname and Indian head logo. Though the Board of Education may extend the deadline, prolonged negotiations seem unlikely.[more]

The retirement of the Fighting Sioux brand will leave only about 400,000 similar Native American nicknames and logos in America, including, most prominently, the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians—as well as consumer goods incorporating Indian themes such as Indian motorcycles, Land O’Lakes dairy, and Leinenkugel’s Brewing Co.

Fighting Sioux brand supporters argue that the name and logo honors the Sioux warriors of the past, and that the residents of North Dakota respect the brand. They argue that the logo has years of history and brand loyalty.

But many of the area’s Native Americans see the logo as a reminder of a legacy of racism. The heated debates have deeply divided the community, culminating in a $100 million hockey arena donated by Ralph Engelstad who, recognizing the growing controversy, inlaid thousands of Fighting Sioux logos in the building specifically to make removal prohibitively expensive. Also, many Fighting Sioux logo supporters say they will only be more loyal to the brand if it goes, and will wear and display it prominently.

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