You Know What's More Offensive Than "Siouxper Drunk" Shirts? Censorship.


This last week we were treated to the latest chapter in the never-ending saga of the “Fighting Sioux” logo and nickname, though it what sparked it was an event that didn’t have anything to do with the University of North Dakota.

At Springfest, a City of Grand Forks event that UND is not involved with in any way, a group of young people – at least a few students at UND – wore shirts they had custom made for the event which read “Siouxper Drunk.”

Underneath those words was a Native American chief’s head – not the Sioux logo, but actually the logo you can see on the side of North Dakota Highway Patrol cars on and state highway signs – with a beer bong in its lips.

Many were outraged, and that’s a perfectly reasonable response. The struggles with substance abuse in our Native American communities is no laughing matter. Certainly not appropriate fodder for what was intended as a lighthearted tshirt.

What was an unreasonable response, however, was how a certain faction of the perpetually outraged responded to shirts. Instead of limiting their rancor to the kids who, you know, actually  made and wore the shirts, they turned the incident into a broader indictment of UND’s former Fighting Sioux logo and nickname complete with calls for mandatory sensitivity training for all new UND students and ban on displaying the logo/nickname or even expressing support for it.

They voiced their demands during a protest walk on UND’s campus last week, an event that was attended in solidarity (to their shame) by members of the UND administration including Provost Thomas Dilorenzo. The event was promoted on Twitter with the #WalkForChange hashtag.

But even before the “Siouxper Drunk” controversy there was a push for this sort of censorship. Kyle Thorson, a candidate for the North Dakota state House in District 43 and a member of UND’s student government, introduced a resolution for his fellow student Senators to vote on which would have mandated sensitivity training for members of student government and banned them from supporting the logo/nickname in any way.

These moves towards censorship, by both Thorson and the organizers of the march (and, apparently, certain members of the UND administration), are more offensive than the Fighting Sioux logo/nickname could ever be.

More offensive even than the “Siouxper Drunk” tshirts themselves.

Keep in mind that the supposed offensiveness of the Fighting Sioux logo/nickname is very much in dispute. While some decry it, rather ludicrously, as racism on par with racial segregation, others (including, notably, the community of Sioux people living on the Spirit Lake reservation) simply don’t agree.

What’s next? Ban on disagreement over social issues like abortion and gay marriage? Or climate change?

All the more offensive is the fact that this push for censorship is taking place on one of our university campuses, supposedly epicenters of free expression and inquiry.

The Fighting Sioux logo fight will go on – state Rep. Scott Louser, a Republican from Minot, already has legislation prepared that will keep in place a moratorium on UND picking a new nickname for another two and a half years – but the “Siouxper Drunk” imbroglio belongs to a larger narrative.

One in which our college campuses are slowly being turned into places where dissent against certain political and cultural dogmas isn’t tolerated.

The threat of academia becoming a place of hidebound politics, and homogenous thought, is much more serious than a sports nickname could ever be.