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That law was repealed in November, when legislators approved Senate Bill 2370, which allowed the school to stop using the moniker.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

    I fail to understand why this offends " Real Native Americans " . It is actually honoring their forefathers bravery,perseverance and Spirit. Fighting Sioux ( Lakota ) brings up a noble mental picture,not a denigrating one. I think perhaps "Non-Native Americans " are behind most of these squawks because they think its disrespectful.

    June 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff

    Until Ireland approves the use of "Fighting Irish", I demand that Notre Dame also change their name. How is a fighting Leprauchan as the symbol of an Irishman less offensive to the Irish than the Head of an Indian on the Sioux's jersey?

    June 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Retired Army


      June 13, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  3. joe orns

    yeah..give back land and do not subjugate..ok then..tell that to the Spanish who conquered central and south america and forced Spanish onto them..then interbred to wipe out most the native Indians there...hey..and lets also tell the muslims to give back Turkey to the Europeans along with Afghanastan and other Asian fact..lets all give back weverything and just go about it?

    June 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DakotaMan

    Spirit Lake Sioux supports 'Fighting Sioux' nickname by 67% vote in 2009.

    From the Standing Rock Sioux:
    Nearly 60 percent voted in June 2008 to keep the tribe’s name as the "Standing Rock Sioux Tribe."

    June 13, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stick it to the NCAA

    As an alumni I will never consider myself anything but a Fighting Sioux. Yes I see the point, basically because of all the PC, everyone vows to go with the NCAA and we wouldn't be allowed tournament games in Grand Forks. But it's a sad day when something as small as this is on the NCAA's table and not how crooked they are and all the big football and basketball schools. I wish my palms were as greased up as the big wigs in the NCAA. I already said, if my school can't stick up for their heritage and name, what is the point of me giving back to them when they did nothing to stand up for all of their proud alumni. I would love it if whoever was in charge of picking the new name would go with the Suhaki. There's another website devoted to it, but it's basically a european antelope, and the name basically speaks for itself. Fight on SIOUX!

    June 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Fast Fred

    How about the fighting Dakotains. Maybe both states of North and South Dakota should change their names to North and South Souixikins.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Fast Fred

    Any wikiups been foreclosed on?

    June 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Actual Native From North Dakota

    It's funny what people can say about Native Americans. None of this would be out in the open if it were about another race. I guess we just aren't threatening enough.

    June 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • kevin


      June 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dakota Girl

      Removing the name "Fighting Sioux" won't make anyone more threatening, either. For many in this country they would rather just forget about an indigenous population, since it makes their presence so much more acceptable. Out of sight, out of mind. Just go quietly into that good night.

      June 14, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • MEC2

      Umm... Notre Dame Fighting Irish anyone?

      June 14, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. Suthener

    How about the fighting Nigtons from Niigton Texas. None have challenged using the word 'Nigton' like they did 'N/ggardly', a word that has NOTHING to do with skin color. The small town outside of lufkin Texas, *Nigton* was originally *N/ggertown*. Not a peep of this mentioned 'cept by me. Suthern leaders were and are slow to getting around to the emancipation proclamation, as we all know.

    June 13, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • tripwire

      What? Can you please try to reword so that you sound somewhat coherent? stop embarrassing your brethren and just stay quiet.

      June 14, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. t-bone

    Whats really funny about this is everyone is falling for the illusion that justice has been served.
    In reality, what has happened is a bunch of white guys at the NCAA have managed to get a school to drop the Sioux name.
    Without the name being out front at every event and posted all across the state, the name will fade into oblivion.
    The NCAA have effectivly rid the state of the Sioux in the present day and as time passes so will the memory of the Sioux.
    Its easier to relegate a group of people to history when you dont keep them alive everyday.
    Through PC the NCAA has done more harm to the Sioux than the University ever could have.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trog

      'He who controls the past controls the future he who controls the present controls the past who controls the present'?

      June 13, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. zippy

    Thank God cooler heads prevailed; next year we can look forward to supporting the Deballed Donkeys.

    June 13, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. zippy

    As a White-Hispanic, I just want to thank everyone for changing "press 2 for espanol" to "press 1 for espanol". My self-esteem is renewed.

    June 13, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Trog

    A good first step, now comes the reinstatement of Manhattan Island, Florida, the New England States, the Mississippi Valley, and the rest of the US to the indians.
    And, the room falls into silence.

    June 13, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jwl

    Yes, by all means take away the name. Then everyone can forget about the Indians altogether, which is what will happen.

    June 14, 2012 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. krehator

    PC in this country is getting out of hand! My feelings are hurt. Hug me and make a law for me.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
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