Tribal member, former UND athlete decries NCAA policyColleen Chaske, a star basketball player at the University of North Dakota in the late 1980s, says in a federal court document that the fight over UND’s nickname “has torn myself and my family apart” and could slow the educational progress of her people.
By: Chuck Haga, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
Colleen Chaske, a star basketball player at the University of North Dakota in the late 1980s, says in a federal court document that the fight over UND’s nickname “has torn myself and my family apart” and could slow the educational progress of her people.
In an affidavit submitted in the Spirit Lake Tribe’s lawsuit against the NCAA, she writes that her pride in being a Fighting Sioux has been “overshadowed by the shame” brought about by the divisive battle over the name.
“It’s wrong and hurtful,” she writes, and done “out of misguided ignorance if not arrogance.”
Chaske, the niece of Spirit Lake elder and nickname champion John Chaske, lives in Oberon, N.D., and is an enrolled member at Spirit Lake. She notes in her affidavit that her mother is of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.
The Turtle Mountain Band has declared itself opposed to the nickname, but there has been no vote there “and Turtle Mountain people regularly wear Fighting Sioux apparel.”
She asks whether the NCAA, in adopting “a policy that blankets the country,” took into account how divisive it would be in Indian Country.
“Within my own immediate family, some words have been spoken that will take a long time to heal, words that have been unkind and caused by the policy of the NCAA,” she writes. “I am hurt and angry that neither I nor my people had a say in informing the NCAA of what their policy would do to me and to my family and to my state.”
She writes that she has “very little knowledge about the pipe ceremony in 1969,” the event at UND cited by nickname supporters as an irreversible gift of the Sioux name to the university. But she says she learned to respect such traditions from her father, the late Joseph Chaske Jr. “I was taught that praying with the pipe is very sacred and should never be disrespected in any way.”
Chaske writes in her affidavit that she “never experienced any major racial incidents” in the two years she attended classes at UND, “other than the ‘normal’ negative comments made about Indian people, the same comments that I have grown up with living in the City of Devils Lake.”
She says she never heard a racial slur from her teammates. “I think we were all proud to be part of the Fighting Sioux tradition.”
UND’s use of the Sioux name has brought much good to her people, Chaske states, and the NCAA’s efforts to punish UND for keeping it may jeopardize that.
“It is like going back in time when the government told us Indians what was good for us and we had to listen and do as we were told.… I am afraid for the future of our children’s education.… The future does not look quite as bright and promising when the NCAA is telling Sioux people to be gone and forgotten.”
Chuck Haga is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.