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,

Jim Cummins
Chief Gravel Officer
Life Time / Dirty Kanza

Lynn Williams
Kaw Nation

This original letter is published on DK’s website here. Photo from 2018 event, courtesy of ENVE.


    • Tom on

      The great part about this country is that people are free to speak their minds, mostly without reprisal. The bad part is that it encourages people who have nothing else going for them to invent new reasons to be outraged. I won’t claim to be familiar with all the colloquialisms out there that legitimately are offensive, but the one is a bridge too far. I’m glad that Lifetime made this public so that people can get a sense of the idiocy out there, on both sides of the aisle.

  1. Tom K on

    The virus is maybe, just barely, starting to wind down a bit, and we’re already back to this?

    Not sure if that’s a good sign, or a bad one!

  2. fm106 on

    If it takes a 4 paragraph press release to explain why something sounds bad but isn’t: you may be fighting an uphill battle.

  3. luggednut on

    …how about ‘the gravel kanza’–pretty sure we’d all understand what that connotes…not sure why Jim Cummins can’t let ‘dirty’ go.

  4. Mr Pink on

    Some people just need to get outside and ride bikes more. This event has been going on for what, 10-15+ years? If someone thinks someone should be offended when there was never intent to offend, well you got bigger problems in your life. Do you get upset if someone bumps into you at the store? No, because there was no intent to do so.

    Guess if the Kaw people and the people of Kansas have no problem with it, think we should all let it be.

  5. Grant on

    I hope these people figure out that’s it’s possible to love themselves and each other without a common enemy. And it’s possible to form bonds over love for cycling without indulging in outrage-porn.

  6. Slacker on

    Just because some of the Kaw people are not offended does not mean others are not. Similar to other uses of Native American names in teams the DK should take the path of least resistance and find a new name.

  7. El Pataron on

    To me, there’s nothing wrong with outrage if something is outrageous, and in this country, there’s a lot of outrageous stuff that deserves a bit of outrage. Further, just because something–be it a name, statue, or institution has existed for years with a certain name in no way means it is exempt from a name change. Tradition is the illusion of permanence. That said…. perseverating over the name of a bike race in Kansas seems to me to be a luxury for most people to be worried about it. Maybe the tribe disagrees. But then, I’ll never pay gobs of money to race for hours in Kansas for any reason.


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