Response to DIRTY KANZA Changing its Name

Response to DIRTY KANZA Changing its Name

Recently, there’ve been comments, discussions and petitions asking Dirty Kanza promoters and owner Life Time to change the name of the event. The basic point of concern is that putting the word “dirty” in in front of Kanza, referring to the Kaw Nation’s native land (now mostly known as Kansas) is offensive, implying that the Native Americans are dirty.

#ChangetheName is a campaign to end the use of the racial slur “dirty Kanza” as the event name of DIRTY KANZA in Emporia, KS. Launched by Cyclista Zine, the campaign calls upon the owners of the “DK”, LIFETIME FITNESS, organizers, and sponsors to do the right thing and bring an end the use of the racial epithet.

The change request isn’t the first of its kind. Bike Rumor mentions that The Mid South recently rebranded after years of operation as The Land Run 100. Event promoter Bobby Wintle informed them 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 to Mid South Gravel.

UPDATE 10.29.2020 – Dirty Kanza has officially changed its name to UNBOUND gravel.

Dirty Kanza Changing Its Name
“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.

Dirty Kanza has a little different story. 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

Response can be found Dirty Kanza’s website here. Photo from 2018 event, courtesy of ENVE.

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