Clyde Bellecourt says U of M is "scholastically retarded" on Native American issues

Bellecourt speaks during yesterday's news conference.
The National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media wants the University of Minnesota to prohibit the Washington NFL team from playing on campus at TCF Bank stadium on November 2 unless the team changes its nickname.

But U officials, citing the terms of its lease with the Vikings, say they don't have the authority to do that. Their stance prompted Clyde Bellecourt, a founding member of the coalition, to call everyone at the U from President Eric Kaler on down "scholastically retarded" on Native American issues during a news conference yesterday.

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This morning, we contacted Bellecourt and asked him to explain that quote, which raised the eyebrows of one of the Star Tribune's Vikings reporters.

Bellecourt stands by what he said.

"They don't know anything about Indian people, they don't know anything about our history," Bellecourt tells us. "The Washington Redskins think they're honoring us, but if they knew the history of where that name came from..."

Bellecourt says the team's name originated with the way blood would trickle down the head of a Native American who had just been scalped by a bounty hunter. That aside, he argues Minnesotans' knowledge about Native American communities and their history is woefully inadequate.

"[The U of M] has a policy not to discriminate in any way, whether it be people of color, [GLBT] or any other protected class, but they're willing to violate their own policies to accommodate the Vikings," Bellecourt says. "So we're thinking that students, particularly student organizations, should know that and demand equality, but unfortunately they grew up not knowing any of that history."

"People know nothing," Bellecourt continues. "You don't hear anything about the [Native American] uprising in the state of Minnesota, about the scalping policies initiated by one of our first governors [Alexander Ramsey] -- Indians refer to him as 'long knife.'"

Bellecourt makes a forceful case that society wouldn't tolerate other groups of people being denigrated the way Native Americans are with names like the Redskins and mascots like the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo.

"If the New Orleans Saints had a mascot dressed up like the pope, and every time there was a touchdown, instead of doing the tomahawk chop, he sprinkled holy water on drunks and said the Lord's Prayer, the church would never allow that to happen," Bellecourt says.

Bellecourt singled out President Kaler, who on August 1 wrote a letter to Rep. Betty McCollum saying, "I agree that the current name is offensive and should be replaced."

(For more, click to page two.)

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