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That law was repealed in November, when legislators approved Senate Bill 2370, which allowed the school to stop using the moniker.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

    I think the name honors the Sioux. It doesn't seem derrogatory to me whatsoever.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Curtis

      Unlike the Redskins name, which sounds bad, or the Cleveland Indians cartoonish mascot,

      June 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      My exact feelings as well. Shows a respect for a proud people...crazy political garbage.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Snake In The Grass

      The term "Sioux" in itself is derogatory. That's the problem.

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

      Even one of the Sioux tribes agrees with you; and the article never said the other tribe objected to the nickname, it just did not officially endorse it.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gentle Blogger

    Still, even to this day, you won't find black Americans suing their ancestors governments for selling them into slavery. Not since they were allowed to vote, marry white girls, goto same schools as US, welfare, etc. (welfare source: "43% of black America's sole source of income is welfare"-NAACP)

    June 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • WilliamsBurb

      I can't figure out why they haven't had success suing the Kingdom of Dahomey and other 17th century African principalities. Hmm. must be because of the welfare here in the US..

      June 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mr Hand

    Change it to "Fighting Sue", that'll show em.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sergio

    People trying to make the argument regarding Notre Dame don't actually seem to be offended by their team being called the Fighting Irish. It's a bad comparison until there are actually a lot of people who truly are offended by it. One of the tribes in ND find Fighting Sioux offensive and didn't give their permission. That's the big difference, no matter how much you whine about Notre Dame.

    June 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • christopher

      but did it say the other tribe found it offensive, or it just did not give official support - there's a BIG difference!

      June 13, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gentle Blogger

    Most American Indian Nations sold-out to the invading Americans just as Afghanistans government has. Think about it.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blogger XYZ

      They didn't "sell out"! They were forced off their land with a Lsign this or die!" You can't compare the NA's plight with Afghanistan! Silly analogy. Think about it.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mood

    I'm just waiting for PETA to step in and file lawsuits to stop the insensitive injustice caused to the bears, bulls, tigers, huskies, badgers, woverines, and all the other defenseless animals being ridiculed with their images on helmets.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kelvin

    I wouldn't say this name is offensive, Washington Redskins is offensive, this is celebrating the Sioux as noble warriors, no different than a sports team calling itself Spartans or Argonauts, I don't see the big deal with this name.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gloria

    I had heard about a year ago, that most of the tribes wanted to keep the Fighting Sioux name; they weren't bothered by it.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Snacklefish

    Can't wait for the new name, "Rarely Aggressive Meadowlarks".

    June 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joe Seattle

    The day of first contact is steadily approaching. It could be tomorrow, it could be in 200 yrs, but when it arrives, I hope we're ready for what comes. And I seriously doubt this is going to matter.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. stevie

    why would this even be put up for a vote? It should be strictly up to the Board of Regents, the President of the University, or the person claiming to be in charge of University affairs.

    jjeesh.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. WilliamsBurb

    Yeah David, those North Dakota voters are always the first people I think of when I hear "PC". I'll bet half the knuckle draggers who call anything they don't agree with "PC" don't even know what it stands for.

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

      Yes everyone who disagrees with you is dumb, btw lunch break is over time to turn off yous 3 year old iMac and leave starbucks time to get to work instead of writing your "screenplay"

      June 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Personal Computer?

      June 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fast Fred

      How about the fighting "Knuckle Dragers!"

      June 13, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nadbash

    And onward marches the mighty campaign of pussification across our united states of America! We will scour any and all language that may even be misconstrued as minorly offensive so that future generations will know our ideal sanitized utopia of revisionist history and concern for everyone's feelings.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sam

    I understand that some people aren't offended, but some are. To some, it would be as if a team were called the "Fighting Blacks" or the "Fighting Whites". I can understand why some have issue.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Actual Native From North Dakota

    I will say it again. It is not the nickname. It is the behavior of the fans and alumni that brought this issue forward. Quit worrying about imagery and the nickname. The discussion should be treatment of other people. And for the idiot who says we sold out, your comment only reinforces stupid ideology. Signing treaties when the other option is death is not selling out. It's survival.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Actual Native From North Dakota

      I am Turtle Mountain Chippewa, born and raised in Belcourt, ND. Sioux comes from the word naadowesiwag. Naturally a white guy couldn't get it straight and wrote it down wrong. Any other stupid comments, Karl?

      June 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
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