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That law was repealed in November, when legislators approved Senate Bill 2370, which allowed the school to stop using the moniker.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

    Change it to the "Fighting White Middle Aged Men." We're not allowed to be offended.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |

      exactly, nobody gets offended by "Fighting Irish"

      June 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike in NYC

      Actually Rob ... white middle-aged men are the ONLY group that offending and picking on is not only allowed in this country but is actively encouraged.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • sara


      June 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AnimalsAsLeaders

    You kidding me ? People really have this much free time on their hands ? I almost don't believe it. It's difficult to imagine just 1 person having this little purpose in life, and you're telling me more than one person took the time to entertain this trivial,inane,3rd grade issue ? Sounds like some people need to invest in their lives a little more.This story's a sad indictment on how pathetic some people are.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • rkt210

      A lot of lawyers are making a lot of money over this. That's why this non-issue became an issue.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      @rkt120: The lawyers aren't paying themselves. Some other id_iot is at the helm

      June 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. proud to be an American

    If this is all this country has got to worry about, we are
    more screwed than I thought. I understand the offensive and all that but it should be left up to the offended group to ask for the change. To spend all this time and money of garbage like this is ridiculous. How much money has this cost that could have gone to education, roads etc. Again I smell the right wingnuts. Get government out of my pocket so how much have you spent of the peoples tax dollars.

    June 13, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. GO Sioux!!

    Isn't there some sort of litigation tied to the Ralph and the Betty over changing the "nick name of the school"? If its the fighting part that has some groups up in arms drop the "fighting" part of the name. But it would be a real shame to see the Stadium dismantled...

    The Ralph is one of the most elaborate college stadiums ever built and if I were Sioux i'd be a proud supporter!

    June 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. White guy from ND

    I love your sad story about getting called names.......NOT!!! Get a life. I hate to tell you this but if you look at statistics are most of the things that you mentioned in there pretty much true? What is the percentage of NA on welfare, how many NA have children in high school or just out of high school, how many use drugs/alcohol consistantly. Oh and don't forget that when you turn 18 that you get that governmental check because you are NA. Oh thats right, you are tax exempt for certain purchases. Boy we dont have any perks. But you keep on complaining about how you should get this for free and more of this and that. You get free housing for goodness sakes. Then all of a sudden they take the question to the tribes to get an ok. One of them declines it because they think that it is mocking their heritage........the true answer is that they wanted some type of compinsation. This whole thing is about money and nothing to do with their heritage.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      I invite you to come live on the reservation then...

      You are a fool.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • native chick

      Although I can understand how you can feel like Natives get everything for free. That is not the case. I finished hs, have a child NOT on drugs and when he turns 18 he will NOT get any funds because he is Native. Check yourself and what is lacking in your life and try to find happiness.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Manuel J.

      Hey White Guy, I'll bet if you return ALL the land to the Native Americans, they'll gladly stop receiving checks. Remember, they only embrace what the White Man wanted... full compliance to subjugation.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Retired Army

      Hey 'White guy'........angry much?

      June 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kinne

      And, don't forget White-Hispanics!

      June 13, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • montyross

      yes, conquistadores destroyed the Aztecs and their civilization...

      June 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • montyross

      yes, conquistadores destroyed the Aztecs and their civilization.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kansas Cowboy

    North Dakota has a university?

    June 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • ND

      Wow, you're really smart aren't you? I'm sure a lot of people would say the same thing about Kansas.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • pjusa

      Kanas has people who can read and write?

      June 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cynthia

      HAHAHA this is coming from someone who is from Kanasas. I-70 was the worst drive in the country and is the most conservative place I have ever been to. I thought it was the 1800s. They have the best aviation school in the country and is much more affordable then Riddle and offer a more multi-disciplinary approach to learning then Riddle.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dakota Girl

      Apparently. But I still went to UNC. Go Heels!

      June 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |

    Don't see anyone complaining about the "Fighting Irish" of Notre Dame. what a joke

    June 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • ND2AZ

      What about the Fighting illini or FSU Seminoles?
      Once again, NCAA picks on the smaller schools.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Irish

      As a person of Irish descent, I didn't used to be offended by "The Fighting Irish." However, now the NCAA has helped me see that I should be offended by it. I hope that the NCAA makes Notre Dame change their mascot now too, in order to be fair to all cultures, races, and ethnicities.

      Go Greendale Human Beings!

      June 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. GbreadMan

    And they rejected eliminating property taxes entirely, rejecting the "tax cuts at all costs" conservative religion. Some faith has been restored in North Dakota (although they're still going to have a New Jersey sized amount of superfund sites once the oil companies throw them on the roadside when all the oil's gone).

    June 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. native

    here is the problem as I see it. If these colleges or high schools etc... drop all reference to the native american population; there will be nothing left to remember. We need to keep these names in the public domain or they will be lost. Cherokee, Choctaw, Apache, etc.. all have a long and cherished history. What will inspire the next generation to ask who where the Sioux? The only thing the youth will know is, "oh, that's where the Casino is".

    June 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Trevor

    I don't see how this is offensive in anyway. Would people prefer The poverty stricken, trailer park living Sioux? If anything, The fighting sioux seems like a compliment. But what do I know, I don't have as much free time as these people.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ready

    What is offensive about the name? Even the logo is tasteful.... these sad PC times we live in....

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

    Political correctness running wild once again.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rkt210

    This has absolutely nothing to do with UND, the Sioux tribe, or politics, and everything to do with a lot of lawyers from multiple organizations figuring out how to get paid by raising an issue over nothing.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Will T


    What about the Fighting illini or FSU Seminoles?
    Once again, NCAA picks on the smaller schools.

    The Seminole Tribe allowed FSU to use the name of the Tribe and they support it 100% (I believe they even made sure the mascot who rides the horse wore traditional Seminole clothing). Sad to see the Fighting Souix gone always loved their hockey team and the name always sticks out

    June 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jokesterer

    The Whining Sioux is more like it.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
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