Recently, there’ve been online discussions and petitions asking Dirty Kanza promoters and new owner Life Time to change the name of the event. The oversimplified point of concern is that putting the word “dirty” in front of a colloquialism referring to the Kaw Nation’s native land (now mostly known as Kansas) is offensive, implying that the Native Americans are dirty.
The change request isn’t without merit, or precedence. The Mid South recently rebranded after years of operation as The Land Run 100. Event promoter Bobby Wintle told us that the 1889 Land Run was a massive displacement of indigenous tribes. Just one of many such unfortunate events in our nation’s history, and one that has no place being celebrated by naming a modern-day event after it. So, he changed the name.
But with DK, the story’s a little different. Below is the official statement from the current owner and a representative of the Kaw Nation:
An Open Letter from Life Time and the Kaw Nation to the Gravel Cycling Community
This open letter is in direct response to recent activities on social media and elsewhere, which are designed to bring discredit to the Dirty Kanza event and force a change to the event name. Statements recently shared by certain individuals and media outlets have been ill-informed at best, and outright untruthful at worst. These statements and publications were made without any prior contact with either Life Time or the Kaw Nation. Although attempts were made to make these actions appear to be in the interest of the Kaw Nation, the fact is they were not made on behalf of, or in cooperation with, the Kaw Nation. Life Time and the Kaw Nation are proud of our relationship, which is built upon mutual respect, dignity, and integrity. It is our hope the following will shed some light upon the meaning of the event name.
The original co-founders of the event wanted the name to convey two things…
1.) WHAT the event is.
2.) WHERE the event takes place.
“Dirty” is not intended to be a negative term, but rather a badge of honor. We play in the dirt, and we are proud of it. Don’t come to this event wearing white shoes and white socks… because they won’t stay that way. This event is raw. It’s rugged. It’s gritty. And it’s going to take a large dose of grit to complete the challenge.
Numerous naming options were considered to describe the “where”… including “Kansas” and “Flint Hills”. In the end, it was felt that “Kanza” paid homage to the region (the Kanza Prairie), to its rich history, and to all things associated with the region…including the Kaw Nation. Dirty Kanza is not unique in this practice, as there are over 150 corporations in the state of Kansas that use “Kanza” as part of their name. This wide practice is evidence of the fact that “Kanza” is synonymous with “Kansas.” These things were shared by Jim Cummins of Life Time, to three members of the Kaw Nation Tribal Council, including Lynn Williams, Chairwoman of the Tribal Council, in a face-to-face meeting, held at the Kaw Nation Headquarters on February 26, 2019.
During this meeting, this group also discussed the characteristics shared by event participants, and what it takes to compete in an ultra-distance gravel road challenge… Discipline, Determination, Courage, Perseverance. It was agreed that these same attributes are shared by members of the Kaw Nation. Life Time and the Kaw Nation are proud to stand alongside one another as Dirty Kanza pursues its mission to provide life-enriching experiences to event participants and to build community. Together, we endeavor to exemplify respect for one another and all people, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. We hope everyone will join us in this effort.
Respectfully and Sincerely,
Chief Gravel Officer
Life Time / Dirty Kanza