Farewell, Sleepy Eye!

To the editor:

The 2023 session of the Minnesota Legislature has done many wonderful things, but one decision it has made is more far-reaching than it contemplated. It has used its vast powers to keep ISD 84 students from cheering for the Sleepy Eye Indians.

Under the new broadly-worded law, not only is the term “Indians” banned as a team name, but the name or image of any American Indian individual, custom or tradition may not be used on the logo, letterhead or as a team name of any public school or school district.

So not only will ISD 84 students not be able to cheer for the Indians, they will not be allowed to cheer for Sleepy Eye either, that being the name of the American Indian for whom Sleepy Eye is named. The image of Chief Sleepy Eye–taken from an 1824 painting and used throughout the school and on many of the school district’s documents–would no longer to be allowed as part of the school’s self-identification, as this new law is worded.

Our community’s new combined football team, with athletes from St. Mary’s and ISD 84 High School, will be taking the field this fall as Sleepy Eye United–a team name that will be illegal under the new law.

Schools with American Indian names like Chaska and Shakopee will have to change them, or at least drop them from the names of their athletic teams and school letterheads. If you can’t include the name of the school or the school’s return address on the school district letterhead, what’s the point of sending a letter?

Even schools like Redwood Valley will have to drop “Redwood” from its team name, since Redwood refers to the American Indian custom of painting the trees red. They’ll just have to be the Valley Cardinals of Valley High School, located in Falls, Minnesota.

As far as ISD 84 is concerned, we’re lucky–there are lots of words that rhyme with it, like more, floor, door and score, so we should be able to come up with a nifty new team chant.

There is a possible out, however. ISD 84 has until September 1 to ask the eleven federally-recognized Tribal Nations and the Tribal Nations Education Committee for permission to continue to use “Indians,” “Sleepy Eye,” and the portrait of Chief Sleepy Eye. Permission requires unanimous consent, however, so it’s a bit of a long shot.

So get ready to cheer for ISD 84! Run across the floor! Show ’em the door! We can do more! Score, score, score!

Mark Beito

Sleepy Eye


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