Watertown Arrows fans didn't like us outsiders talking about the cultural misappropriation inherent in their homecoming activities. Now some Dakota students who attended Sisseton public schools but switched to Tiospa Zina to get away from racial prejudice are saying Sisseton's team name (the Redmen) and homecoming activities offend their cultural identity:
A group of female American Indian basketball players in Roberts County are working on a cause that their grandparents took up more than 20 years ago.
Tate, Mahpiya, Fidelity and Persephone Eastman, along with a few of their friends, hosted a rally this week asking the Sisseton School District to change the name of its team and logo from Redmen [Katherine Grandstrand, "Teens Rally for Name Change," Aberdeen American News, 2015.02.06].
A relative of the girls recalls cultural misppropriation in Sisseton's homecoming activities that sounds very similar to Watertown's:
LeeAnn Eastman said that when she went to high school in Sisseton, she had similar experiences as her daughters and nieces. Because of the way she was treated at Sisseton, she said she transferred to Tiospa Zina.
“I couldn’t handle that,” LeeAnn Eastman said. “You just feel lower, like you’re below them, like you’ll never be as good as them.”
The nickname isn’t the only issue. The way the American Indian is used at school events, like homecoming, is also problematic, LeeAnn Eastman said.
“They crown a chieftain and a princess, and they put on a headdress. The girls braid up their hair, they put paint on their face,” she said. “I haven’t seen it since I was really young, but I know before, they did mock ceremonies. They mocked our ceremonies. ... That’s how we pray” [Grandstrand, 2015.02.06].
The girls organized a protest of the Redmen name before Tuesday's basketball game between Tiospa Zina and Sisseton. The Sisseton superintendent appears to find First Amendment exercise incompatible with physical exercise:
Some people didn’t like that the protest took place before a girls’ basketball game, Sisseton School District Superintendent Stephen Schulte said. It affected not only those in attendance, but the game itself, he added.
“They have an opportunity to come to school board and make suggestions, and the board can act on that,” Schulte said. “But at this point in time, recently, they haven’t done that. They’ve done it in the past” [Grandstrand, 2015.02.06].
Hmm... if a group is aggrieved by a sports team's name, it seems to me the most appropriate place to raise awareness of that grievance would be at an event where that name is being chanted and trumpeted the most loudly. But then, what do I know about basketball?