Debates over controversial names are not new to North Dakota

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Across the country, civil unrest has brought up a call for changing the controversial names of mascots, monuments, and more.

We sat down with two people who are no stranger to the call for action.

“We’re recognizing this. This is coming to bare. We can no longer dispute the facts of who these people. Were and are and what they stood for then,” shares Joseph McNeil Jr.

Joseph McNeil Jr. was on the front line of the call to change the University of North Dakota’s mascot in 2012.

“The costumes and the war hooping and all this by people who don’t like us? I can’t take that. The irony of people who don’t want us in their community but wear “Fighting Sioux”. That’s ridiculous,” shares McNeil Jr.

Both sides of McNeil’s family have taken a stand for what they believe in.

On his mother side, he is a decedent of Chief Sitting Bull and his father was at the center of the civil rights movement in 1960 as one part of the Greensboro 4.

“They made sure that their planning was really robust. So when they went to the store Woolworth, they knew that they were going to go sit down but they need to establish themselves as customers first. So one went and bought a note book. Another went and bought a pencil. Another went and bought a stapler. So when they went and sat at the lunch counter, “well we don’t serve you here. Well they held up the note book and receipt, “well yes you do,” shared McNeil Jr.

Melanie Moniz, a member of MHA Nation, has been fighting to have the name of Bismarck’s Custer Park changed because it’s a reminder of trauma for tribal nations across North Dakota.

“Naming a park after an individual who terrorized a group of people is directly excluding that group of people,” shared Moniz.

Across Bismarck, General Sibley Park, Rosser Avenue, and Custer Park are all named after high ranking US soldiers, known for persecuting minorities.

And while McNeil and Moniz understand this is a part of history they both say there is a place for history.

“When they say that it’s history, history belongs in the books. So let’s put history… Truthful actual history in the books and in museums where they can be kept safe,” shares Moniz.

“We can no longer dispute the facts of who these people are. Were and are and what they stood for then. It’s history, yes. It can be put in a museum. Great! Let’s honor and balance, imbalance,” shares McNeil Jr.

Back in February the Bismarck Park Board voted not to change the name of Custer Park.

Park Board policy says it cannot accept another petition for renaming a park for 15 years. Moniz says that won’t stop her from trying.

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