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That law was repealed in November, when legislators approved Senate Bill 2370, which allowed the school to stop using the moniker.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

    There are enough people offended by such names for sports teams that it seems silly to keep them. Would we tolerate a school that had a sports team called The Fighting Israelis if a significant number of Israelis objected? Of course! Who gives a hott what you call the team, and why on earth would a bunch of probably-not-Sioux football players and team boosters feel it's SO important to have that name even if others find it offensive? Grow up and pick a name that doesn't insult folks. Oh, there's a group of Sioux that says it's okay? Well, I have a friend who posts racist jokes about black people on his Facebook and says it's okay because "I got it sent to me by my black friend."

    June 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • A

      Clearly you don't know anything about UND, or you would've chosen to say probably-not-Sioux hockey players.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • xcgdfg

      The fighting Israelis would be a great name, perfect way to strike fear into the opposition...

      June 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Maynerd

    Political correctness and namby pamby's have caused America to lose it's cajones. How pitiful we have allowed others to make us.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lux

    Im a fan of Notre Dame and I'm Irish shuold I be offended??? They never asked my permission to use the term Irish, whats a bunch of blarney

    June 13, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Strange1

      My vote is for the "Fighting Whities."

      June 13, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • bernie

      this is america... no one gives a crap that you're irish.... your white... that's it.

      June 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Retired Army

      Notre Dame was founded by a bunch of Irish-Catholics.....they asked each other.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Burt

    Can we now please recall the Seattle 'Seahawks'? One of the dumbest choices ever and offensive to birds everywhere.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. A

    I see the NCAA couldn't care less about Notre Dame's offensive Irish caricature, though.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. clyde

    You're Irish? Like, you are from Ireland? Or you're one of those americans that claims to be irish because they had family there 4 generations ago? Have you ever even been to Ireland?

    June 13, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lux

      Interesting question Clyde what does that matter? My parents came from ireland and no I have never been there to be honest Im enbarassed to be Irish point is Irish is the same thing, Pirates were gypsies that shuold be offensive too, cowboys should also be offensive the NCAA is crazy

      June 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    What's wrong with the name "The Fighting Sioux?" (Besides the obvious error of calling the Lakota people Sioux in the first place). It's not like they're called the twinkle-toed Sioux or the passive-aggressive Sioux...

    June 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Idiocracy

    The main reason UND wants to change the mascot to one that isn't "racially insensitive" is that there is an impending conference realignment in NCAA D-I hockey... Some schools won't play against teams with "racially insensitive" team names / logos / mascots. IIRC, Wisconsin and Minnesota, UND's traditional rivals in college hockey both have these policies. If they can't play against the bigger schools their revenue and recruiting options start to dry up.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jim

    Lost in all this hoorah is proof that UND does not consider "Sioux" abusive at all. To the contrary, the highest honor bestowed by the University is the "SIOUX AWARD." Google it to see the list of recipients.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Troy

    You all know the song – Oh I would rather be a BADGER than a boy name Sioux! 🙂 On Wisconsin!

    June 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gentle Blogger

    The "Souix" stopped fighting for their mistreated ancestors when most Indian Nations accepted the bribe. (casino rights, tobacco sales rights, for examples)

    June 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moiphy

      But they are getting even with those casinos. A ho!

      June 13, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Moiphy

    The team is probably an insult to a Souix warrior so let them lose the name. Change it to oh, say, Dakota Icemen. No, Dakota is part of the Souix Nation. Nakota, Dakota, Lakota Souix. Damn, can't win. Hey, The University Icemen! Naa, the way their going the ice will melt before they could pass it.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike Johnson

      I am 100% Scandinavian ... should I be offended the Minnesota Vikings refer to my ethnicity as being that thugs and fighters? ... no not at all, I am proud of it. And these people having issues with the names of sport steams simply just have too much time on their hands and not enough real problems to worry about.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moiphy

      I was being scarcastic. I really don't give a damn who is called what or what offends who.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. just4thought

    Who gave UND permission to use the term Dakota?

    June 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. QS

    So the NFL can keep the Redskins, which is far more offensive in my mind, but a team that simply uses the name of a specific tribe of Native Americans is offensive? I guess I don't understand where the offense comes from in this case.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Sioux is not a name that any of the tribes recognize as their own. It was a derogatory name used by their enemies. Americans who came to the region asked the people who were their enemies 'Who are those people?' and the phrase stuck. The Dakota people hate the phrase. The same thing happened decades earlier to the 'Iroquois'.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • christopher

      OK, Mark, so the word "Sioux" itself is supposedly derrogatory.... then the tribe opposing the use of the nickname should tke it out of their own name, the Tribal Council of Standing Rock Sioux. It seems if they were offended by the word Sioux, itself, then they wouldnt themselves use it. Your argument has no merit.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Elliot

    They should call themselves the "Frugal Jews".

    June 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
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