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Dirty Kanza responds to campaign petitioning for name change based on racist allegations

Life Time and the Kaw Nation issue an open letter to the gravel community.

On Friday the website Cyclista Zine circulated a petition calling for race organizer Life Time to change the name of its marquee gravel race, the Dirty Kanza. In the petition,  Cyclista Zine described the race’s name as a racial epithet that impacts the Kaw Nation, an indigenous tribe that lives in Oklahoma and Kansas that is also known by the name “Kanza.”

“To preface Kanza people with “Dirty” shows a disconnect of the history of place, violence, and colonization that has been justified with terms like “dirty” that is connected to America’s Legacy of anti-Indigenous violence,” reads the petition.

On Monday, Life Time, owner of the Dirty Kanza, responded with an open letter to the gravel community addressing the petition.

The letter was co-signed by race co-founder Jim Cummins, as well as by Lynn Williams, the chairwoman of the Kaw Nation.

The letter said the race name was intended to reflect what the event is and where it takes place. In this case, ‘dirty’ represents the off-road nature of the race, and ‘Kanza’ is the name that organizers chose to represent the race’s location in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

“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,” the letter reads.

Dirty Kanza officials say that they have had a working relationship with the Kaw Nation (now of Oklahoma) for at least five years and had met with members of the Kaw Nation Tribal Council, including Williams, as recently as February 26 to ensure an ongoing open dialogue regarding the event.

“Life Time and the Kaw Nation are proud of our relationship, which is built upon mutual respect, dignity, and integrity,” the letter reads. “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.”