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Around this time in February 1925 at the University of North Dakota, student editors of the 1926 Dacotah yearbook were putting their final touches on their work. The University's student newspaper reported that the book would include an epic poem that, in the editor's words, "approaches anything ever written by Longfellow or any of the rest of the immortals.” The writers of the poem were members of the yearbook staff, but they were characterized by the paper as the "noted campus poet laureate," Diplodocus.

As previously recounted in earlier Datebooks, the 1926 edition of the yearbook had adopted the theme of Indian lore, displaying a level of juvenile content that today is seen as quite regrettable. Interestingly, it would be five years later that the "Sioux" moniker would replace "Flickertails" as the nickname for UND sports teams.

The epic poem contrived by the students of1926 begins like this:

'In the lands of the Dacotahs,
By the rippling English coulee,
On the prairie stood the wigwams
Of Chief Big Tom and his tribesmen.'

The school paper reported that the poem would be accompanied by snapshots of campus activities to form the feature section of the yearbook. The poem was framed as the adventures of an Indian character, Hi Hyah, during "his journey in the land of the Dacotahs."

There's evidence that the students expected blowback from the administration. The student newspaper quoted the yearbook's humor editor, William Jacobsen, as saying: “I want to get it printed before they can censor it, and then they cannot destroy it.”

Another indication is a request for Jacobsen to appear at the president's office, a request the students chose to publish in the yearbook. It read, "Mr. Jacobsen. Would you please call at the president's office?" The typed summons included a hand-written postscript to, "Please wear your dress suit!"

While we don't know what transpired in that meeting, we do know that the name for the character in the poem became Hi Hyah instead of the original idea of Brave Smackemdowna.

This glimpse into the campus culture of 1926 perhaps lends insight into the decision a few years later to choose a mascot better suited for taking on Bison than a flickertail ground squirrel. Like the stereotypes in the yearbook, it would come to be seen as a regrettable choice.

Dakota Datebook by Andrew Alexis Varvel

References:

“MARCH 1 DACOTAH COPY DEADLINE: Plans Practically Completed as Panel Proofs Come In,” Dakota Student, 14 February 1925, page 1, column 3.

“DIP WRITES FOR DACOTAH SECTION: NOTED CAMPUS POET LAUREATE CONCOCTS EPIC VERSE FOR INDIAN THEME BOOK,” Dakota Student, 26 February 1925, page 4, column 3.

“FEATURE AND HUMOR WILL BE SEPARATE: 1926 Dacotah Feature Section To Give Illustrated Journey of Indian: Jacobsen Writing Humor Section on Asbestos; No Other Dope Yet”; Dakota Student; 23 January 1925; page 1, column 1; page 4, column 3.

“The Adventures of Hi Hyah,” Ralph B. Curry (editor) and Arnold E. Sandlie (business manager), “The 1926 Dacotah: The Annual of the University of North Dakota” (Grand Forks: The Class of 1926, 1926), volume XII, pages 203-216.

President's summons:
“Prexy's Contribution to the Feature Section,” The 1926 Dacotah, page 352.

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