- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2020

Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, July 16

By any other name

The Washington Redskins finally gave in this week.

Long criticized for a nickname deemed as a derogatory and racist reference to Native Americans, Dan Snyder - the owner of the NFL club (and a man who, according to Thursday’s reports, may have MUCH bigger problems on his radar) - announced this week that the franchise will be “retiring” the name it has gone by for 87 years. This move is prompted not only by the many years of complaints but also by rapidly growing commercial objections (read: economic fallout).

What the team’s new name will be is unknown - the reported favorites are Redwolves, Redhawks and Red Tails, the latter of which would pay homage to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II - but knowing what it WON’T be is the winning point.

There was a time when I would probably have been ambivalent about this, but now I see it as a smart and overdue move. I learned years ago that such issues, which may seem like a PC nuisance to some people, really do matter sometimes in a broader perspective.

Several years ago, I wrote at least one editorial defending the use of controversial nicknames because schools/teams don’t choose such monikers for themselves in order to insult or denigrate others. They are meant to be powerful images, not cheap shots at others. This was literally the same argument President Donald Trump used last week in defending the Redskins’ name, saying, “They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins (may change their nickname) in order to be politically correct.”

But my attitude began evolving as I considered it from more than one perspective. While it may not have been the intent of a school or team with a controversial nickname to hurt anyone, it was also clear that some people sometimes ARE offended. You may not intend to be hurtful, but if you wind up hurting or insulting someone, saying you have only the best intentions does not nullify the wounds inflicted upon others.

So my mind eventually changed. Call it becoming politically correct, if you want - or consider it the broadening of a viewpoint.

In a way, Yankton High School knows about this.

For many decades, the nickname “Bucks” was portrayed as a reference to a male Native American, or so the old YHS logos indicated. This portrayal included depictions during Yankton’s homecoming festivities. In the late 1990s, we had a reporter who was part Native American and she saw something offensive in those depictions. She asked to write an op-ed piece about it and I agreed. It generated some reaction. The impact of her column was officially unclear, but as I recall, the YHS homecoming ritual the following fall featured the royalty in formal attire, not in Native American buckskins, and the old logo was eventually replaced by a male Buck deer (which complemented the Gazelles logo for the girls’ teams). The homecoming attire was eventually compromised a bit to honor the pioneer spirit of the Yankton area, but the Native American inferences were effectively gone.

For Yankton, this evolution was accomplished without changing nicknames, which certainly made the “transition” seamless enough that it was nearly (but not completely) unnoticeable.

But it was not inconsequential.

There will be resistance to the name change for the Redskins; you probably can’t sing “Hail to the Redskins” for decades without suddenly feeling awkward about a shift in the lyric. And some people will probably never stop referring to the team by its old name, no matter what the new name will be. (Personally, I like “Red Tails” mostly because of the historical perspective, but “Red Wolves” admittedly has more football bite to it.) The transition to whatever is next won’t be easy or universally embraced, at least at first.

But the evolution is important. It broadens perspectives and, hopefully, horizons. By any other name, this change will be good for everyone.


Madison Daily Leader, July 13

Face it: We aren’t winning against algae

We need to face the facts: The algae problem in local lakes is not getting any better. And this is after decades of study, concern, complaints and more concern.

Take a look at Lake Madison and Lake Herman, where algae of various colors are painting the shoreline rocks and sandy beaches. At 1 o’clock yesterday, a very sunny Sunday afternoon, there were no swimmers at the beaches at Lake Herman State Park.

We can’t blame them. Algae is not only unsightly, it can be a health hazard in certain forms, to both humans and animals.

A long-term study by Dakota State University faculty shows a fair amount of volatility of algae concentration, both up and down. But the conclusion is that over the last ten years, the average concentration hasn’t gone down, and probably gone up somewhat.

The source of the problem, of course, is excess phosphorus and nitrates. These are naturally occurring in our soils, but they are also added to farm fields, residential lawns, and are produced by animals through waste. Snow melting and rains bring these elements into creeks, streams and lakes, and algae uses them for food. Some of these elements keep flowing downstream, but we keep adding more.

A few efforts over the years haven’t done much. A sanitary sewer system around Lake Madison to replace septic tanks didn’t improve the lake. An experimental swirling project at Lake Madison a few years flopped. A state program that provided money to improve feedlot runoff had few takers. Occasional public service campaigns haven’t changed behaviors.

One of the best remedies are buffer strips, which are grasses or other vegetation planted along lakes, rivers and streams. The purpose is to filter nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from adjacent land before it gets into waterways. Our neighbors to the east in Minnesota have been more aggressive about reducing nitrogen and phosphorus from getting into their lakes, by requiring buffer strips next to creeks and streams to control runoff. South Dakota has a voluntary program to plant buffer strips, with the state providing a 40% tax break for farmers. But the program attracted only 27 farmers who placed 292 acres in 12 counties in the first year.

We don’t expect any progress in the battle against excessive algae until someone in a leadership position - state, county or another local entity — decides to make it a priority and get others to join in.

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