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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 23, 2002 - Issue 57


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Fightin' Whities Gain National Attention

Story By Julio Ochoa, Greeley Tribune
Posted on Wednesday, March 13
Fighting Whities logoSolomon Little Owl hasn't had much rest since Monday.

That's when the national media began calling about his University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team named The Fightin' Whities.

Since then, Little Owl, team member and leader of UNC's Native American Student Services, has answered phone calls from talk shows and news organizations around the country.

"The attention is overwhelming," Little Owl said. "It's gone beyond all of our intentions."

The UNC students picked a white man wearing a suit and tie for their mascot in response to Eaton High School's American Indian mascot, which they say is offensive.

Their attempt to turn the tables on those who couldn't understand their point of view has received media attention from national radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis and Michael Medved; newspapers, including the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today; and every television station and daily newspaper in Denver.

Even a Denver radio station, 103.5 The Fox, has taken notice and plans to send someone to Eaton this morning to get reaction from residents.

Demand for the article crashed the Greeley Tribune's Web site. As of 11 p.m. Tuesday the story had been read at nearly 29,000 times since 2 a.m. Sunday. By comparison, high-interest, local articles usually get about 200 reads per day.

Much of the response has been positive about the mascot but negative for the American Indians' cause, Little Owl said.

"People still don't understand," he said. "They are just trying to nail me on some of these talk shows."

But what people say doesn't really matter, as long as they are talking, said Charlie Cuny, 27, team founder and member of the Oglala Lakota Nation.

Eaton Reds logo"It opens the lines of communication," Cuny said. "If it brings an understanding of both cultures, I look at that as a victory." While the Eaton Re-2 School District superintendent, John Nuspl still refuses to talk to the media, the attention hasn't hurt Eaton High School, said principal Doug Chamberlain.

"I've tried to convince my students that it is everybody's constitutional right to speak their opinion," said Chamberlain, who has responded to media calls since Monday. "We accept people's opinions on all kinds of subjects, as long as it's gone about properly."

Chamberlain said he is familiar with Little Owl, whose wife taught at the high school for three years before leaving on good terms.

"I don't have the same sensitivity as Mr. Little Owl, but that doesn't mean he's wrong," he said. "I certainly respect his right to express himself and be concerned and try to make a change."

The Eaton School Board has discussed the issue and previously has said it would discuss the issue again but has yet to schedule a meeting.

Where exactly the issue can move from here remains to be seen, said Ryan White, a 22-year-old Mohawk Indian and member of the team.

"It's a simple statement that is echoing throughout the country," White said. "I don't think everything is going to change all of the sudden just because of this."

Whether Eaton changes its mascot is not going to affect Cuny's sleep, he said.

"Eaton can do what they want. We've got this window to state a message," Cuny said. "To me, you state your message and see what happens. I'm not so sure it will bring change, but it will bring awareness and that is the seed of change."

Fightin' whites or whities
The University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team that has come to be known as The Fightin' Whities started out with the name Native Pride. When team members picked a mascot, they chose a caucasian man in a suit and called themselves The Fightin' Whites. After word spread around campus, the name evolved into The Fightin' Whities.

Fighting Whites
This is the official store of the Fightin' Whites from University of Northern Colorado. All proceeds from this store will go to the FIGHTING WHITES SCHOLARSHIP FUND INC.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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