North Dakota voters: University can drop Fighting Sioux name
Evan Trupp of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux tries to keep the puck in a hockey game against the Michigan on April 7, 2011.
June 13th, 2012
11:47 AM ET

North Dakota voters: University can drop Fighting Sioux name

North Dakota voters have - for now, at least - cleared the way for the University of North Dakota’s athletic teams to drop their controversial Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

North Dakotans voted 60.5% to 39.5% on Tuesday in favor of a referendum measure that essentially gives the school the power to drop the name, which it has sought to do to comply with an NCAA campaign targeting Native American nicknames.

“We are appreciative that voters took the time to listen and to understand the issues and the importance of allowing the university to move forward,” university President Robert O. Kelley said Wednesday.

But a years-long battle over the nickname might not be over, with supporters hoping to force another vote this time calling for changing the state Constitution to mandate the name’s use in November.

The issue stems from the NCAA's longstanding efforts to get most Native American nicknames and logos out of college athletics. In 2005, the NCAA ordered almost 20 schools whose nicknames and mascots it deemed "abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin" to either get Native American permission to use their names and likenesses or come up with new ones.

The NCAA said that schools continuing to use such nicknames without permission would, among other things, be prohibited from hosting NCAA championship events.

Although one tribal body, Spirit Lake, supported the Fighting Sioux nickname, another group, the Tribal Council of the Standing Rock Sioux, did not give its endorsement. So the North Dakota Board of Higher Education agreed in 2007 to retire the nickname by August 2011.

But some North Dakotans, including the Spirit Lake group, objected, and the state Legislature passed a law in early 2011 requiring the university to use the Fighting Sioux nickname.

That law was repealed in November, when legislators approved Senate Bill 2370, which allowed the school to stop using the moniker.

That prompted the nickname’s supporters to secure petitions forcing Tuesday’s referendum, which asked voters whether Senate Bill 2370 should stand. Tuesday’s “yes” vote keeps the bill in place.

The school stopped referring to its teams as the Fighting Sioux after SB 2370 passed, and the Sioux name and logo were gone from all uniforms except those of the hockey team. But the sports department resumed the nickname's use in news releases in February, when it became clear that the June referendum would happen, said Peter Johnson, executive assistant vice president for university relations.

Johnson said the school will await direction from the State Board of Higher Education, which has a previously scheduled meeting Thursday, regarding when the UND will drop the nickname again. As for a replacement nickname, SB 2730 says UND cannot choose one until January 2015.

But Fighting Sioux supporters have long said they intend to force a vote on constitutionally mandating the name. Supporters have until August to submit enough signatures to put the question on the November ballot.

The UND Alumni Association and Foundation opposes the nickname, saying that the consequences of keeping it extend beyond NCAA sanctions. It says that recruitment is suffering in part because some other schools, including Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota State, won’t compete with UND’s teams over the issue.

The Spirit Lake Committee for Understanding and Respect, which is among the nickname’s supporters, argues that the name and log represent the Sioux people and North Dakota history well.

“We as North Dakotans have many great schools in our state. Each has its own pride and traditions. UND is no exception. The Fighting Sioux is to UND as Coke is to Coca Cola. The name has become the branding of UND,” the group says on its website.

CNN's Jason Hanna, Kevin Conlon and Phil Gast contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Native Americans • North Dakota • Sports
soundoff (248 Responses)
  1. krehator

    They are going to change their name to the "Blanks" just so there is no possible way anyone else can be offended.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:30 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • P

      As a member of the Blanks, I am offended that you would use our name without permission! ;)

      June 14, 2012 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. DPB

    Maybe since the Sioux were a conquered people they don't deserve to be remembered as warriors???? They just gave up to the White-man.... never resisted... and should not be remembered as a great “people".... NOT!!!!! Sorry… to burst you liberal weenie bubble be the Sioux were a Great Nation that fought gallantly against superior forces… This decision further removes them from History.

    June 14, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dasa Hasa

    The PC crowd has another victory in their agenda to feminize and sanitize American society. Ah but now the search for a new name. How about the Ice Pansies...no that would offend the flower growers. How about the Ice Weenies...no that might offend the vegetarians. I've got it...the Skating Nice Persons. That ought to intimidate their opponents.

    June 14, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mance Lotter

      no way, that's offensive to nice people. how about the North Dakota Group of Competing Athletes Looking to Win without Hurting Anyone's Feelings

      June 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joe RedCloud

    @ White Guy from ND, the more you write, the less sense you make. You ask a lot of questions but present no answers. These "statistics" you mention, what is your source material? What government check do you mean? Unless an Indian has land that is leased or mineral rights being used, there's no monthly or annual check from any government. You've been the victim of an on going hoax. Free housing? Really? I presume you have some verified facts to support your statements? No? Why am I not surprised? I believe Retired Army said it best, "Angry much?" Now, get up, grow a pair and go out into the world and see if you can become a contributing member of your society.

    June 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. montyross

    racist ncaa trying to abolish all that is native american from the public view, were else would you be reminded of Native americans besides casinos, in public schools?

    June 14, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mance Lotter

    what a stupid country america is becoming...you look ridiculous and if you don't believe it or if you proudly think you're just being progressive (i.e., holier than thou) then you look even more ridiculous

    June 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. cory

    just sad a great north dakotan tradition gone. notre dame better change there name to i guess. lol the irish might be offended. no name no more free scolarships for the tribes, thats the way it should be!!!

    February 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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