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'Siouxper Drunk' T-shirts spark controversy at UND

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A group of young people were photographed this weekend in Grand Forks, North Dakota, wearing t-shirts saying "Siouxper Drunk," and are taking heat on the University of North Dakota campus and on social media, Valley News Live reports.

The shirts also display an Indian chief logo, similar to the retired UND Fighting Sioux logo, drinking from a beer bong.

The photos appeared to have been taken Saturday during the annual Springfest celebration. The event is not organized by UND, but many students participate in it, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

Several of the photos were posted on a blog, LastRealIndians.com, which took the young people to task for perpetuating racist stereotypes about American Indians, and the UND administration for not acting more forcefully to end racist incidents on campus.

The Native American community on campus reacted swiftly on Twitter and elsewhere, saying the shirts were offensive. Some who allegedly wore the shirts have responded on Twitter with apologies.

Critics on social media also put pressure on CustomInk.com, the company that made the custom-ordered t-shirts.

According to Valley News Live, the company released an apology on Monday.

"We are very sorry about this offensive design. CustomInk's business is focused on bringing people together in positive ways. We handle hundreds of thousands of custom t-shirt designs each year and have people review them to catch problematic content, including anything that's racially or ethnically objectionable, but we missed this one. We apologize for any pain or offense caused by this shirt, and we will continue to improve our review processes to make them better."

UND President Robert Kelley released the following statement late Monday afternoon:

"I was appalled to learn this weekend that a group of individuals had the poor judgment and lack of awareness and understanding to create and then wear T-shirts that perpetuated a derogatory and harmful stereotype of American Indians. The message on the shirts demonstrated an unacceptable lack of sensitivity and a complete lack of respect for American Indians and all members of the community.

These T-shirts were not worn at a UND function -- in fact, the event they are associated with is NOT a university event. They don't appear to have been worn on UND property, and we are not aware that the group represents any UND organization. UND has a responsibility to promote respect and civility within the campus community, and we have the responsibility and right to speak out against hateful behavior. As a University, we teach respect for others. It is imperative that, through our actions, we demonstrate respect for all.

Last month, a sorority at the school was criticized after members hung a banner outside their house that read, ”You can take away our mascot but you can’t take away our pride!” That incident occurred during Time Out Week, a Native American educational event. The sorority house is next door to the American Indian Services Center.

UND’s controversial Fighting Sioux nickname and logo were dropped in 2012 after a long, drawn-out dispute with the NCAA. The University of North Dakota cannot select a new nickname until 2015.

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