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That law was repealed in November, when legislators approved Senate Bill 2370, which allowed the school to stop using the moniker.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

    Because God forbid someone would get offended...

    June 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bzen from Noo Yawk

      ...nobody is going to stone anybody, even if they do say JEHOVAH! [is immediately stoned to death]

      June 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. billmeno

    More "politically correct" crap. Everyone needs to be offended by something to satisfy the lawyers. BS. If people would stop being overly sensitive to everything, have some decent self esteem.... we could eliminate a significant amount of todays problems. Oh.... but that might eliminate the need for some (frivilous) lawyers....I guess we can't do that, they might be offended.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jim

    To "Actual Native from North Dakota": I'm sure what you relate (with straight or forked tongue) would not have happened if UND had still been the "Flickertails" as it was pre 1930. As a native of Grand Forks, I have attended zillions of UND sports events since 1949 and have never seen or heard about such a thing happening.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Actual Native From North Dakota

      It did happen. And it sucked. So if you want you can turn a blind eye to it. My parents are alumni and I chose NDSU for the simple fact I would not attend UND because of the way we were treated. You don't know how traumatic it is when your holding hands with your dad and he's surrounded by a bunch of hillbillies screaming the worst things at him and then having to watch him boil over because there was nothing he could do. So keep going to sporting events, no one's stopping you. But I will never support the "Fighting Sioux" nickname. A couple of bad instances by a couple of morons leaves my with the view that UND and the Grand Forks metro is a racist hub of hillbillies and rednecks. Don't blame me, I am under no obligation to forgive. Think what you want, just be sure to be man enough to use the word liar in your response.

      June 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Shane

    I don't get it. How is having a team with your name offensive??

    Shouldn't the Sioux be proud of this???

    When I hear the Patriots?? I wouldn't think the original minutemen would get offended by it, I would thing it would make them proud.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Krusty

    The name doesn't matter all that much as long as everyone gets a trophy!

    June 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rochambeau

    oh good, now i can sleep at night knowing north dakota is not offending anyone with their non-pc team name.
    Maybe they should change their name to "Conflict Resolving Native Amercians".

    June 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. joe Dugan

    Victimology is now universal. Might there not be rites of passage for young Sioux males that still involve the warrior (a.k.a. "fighting") mentality and tradition? Or were civil law suits in mind by the fighting litigant mentality? Change is fine. It is the reason that is suspect.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Todd

    So at least one Sioux tribe wants the name gone, and the people of North Dakota don't care enough to vote to save it.

    Just change it. It's only a sports nickname, and if the people of ND don't even care I'm not sure why I'm supposed to.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. mark satterlee

    A number of schools have multiple nicknames – as i recall, Auburn is the War Eagles and the Tigers. Georgia Tech is the Wramblin Wreck and the Yellow Jackets – of, course those names are only truly offensive to the Universities of Alabama and Georgia....

    June 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. fastball

    Yeah...it's time. I don't have a problem with it. Signs of an enlightened society when you can accept how some groups feel, and adjust a bit. There's tons of other names out there that can be used. Why do we have to cling to such silly bits of "tradition".

    June 13, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JB

    Seems like a lot of waste of time and money all for the name of a team. Either way, it doesn't seem that controversial to me. But, if there are Native Americans offended by it, what's the big deal with changing it?

    June 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Steven Gaynor

    Why are we wasting money on this when there are young men and women who need scholarships, grants and low-interest loans so they can attend the school (and it is a good school). Let us get our priorities straight! Change the name, be done with it and move on!

    June 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. cleat

    If the indians want us to forget about them even more–so be it...their call...

    June 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Percy

    Like the article states some of the Sioux Tribe members did not approve their name being used – case closed. Here in Florida the Seminoles gladly gave approval for the FSU to use the Seminole name. Problem solved 😉

    June 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brent

      Unfortunately, the article fails to state that the tribal elders of that 2nd Sioux tribe did not allow their members to vote (survey showed overwhelming support of the nickname). That's the greatest untold injustice of this situation. This was an unnecessary process, vote, and revoking of a very proud nickname. This vote didn't reflect an anti-nickname opinion in ND; rather, the realization that the NCAA and its agenda/power cannot be rationally dealt with–as a monopoly, they control too much.

      Oh, and let's not pretend that FSU and the Seminole nickname is so spiritually and morally pure...pay off the tribes and you'll get what you want (see history of the United States).

      June 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Johnny America

    The school should also retire their blatant copy of the Notre Dame -ND- logo

    June 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • ND2AZ

      To: proud to be an American
      UND's Logo is different than Notre Dames. Look closer.

      Since UND will be losing the right to use the Nick Name, that they were given permission to use by the tribes in the beginning, I am sure those thousands of scholorships will be pulled as well. Tribal leaders that did not allow there people to vote will soon reap what they sow.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
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