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That law was repealed in November, when legislators approved Senate Bill 2370, which allowed the school to stop using the moniker.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

    Change the name to the Fighting Whitemen. Really, we don't mind, we won't be offended.

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

    Interesting. My high school's mascot was the Bryan County Redskins.... I wonder if it would have made a difference if we were called the Bryan County Black People?

    June 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BostonSteve

    Elizabeth W arren can speak of these horrific racial overtones towards N ative A mericans....oh wait No she can't....she lied about being N ative A merican in order to better herself.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Paul C

    The University of North Dakota FIGHTING SUGARBEETS!!!!!

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

      change it to the fighting cowboys. or the fighting sues

      June 13, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. conrad shull

    Maybe it's the "Fighting" part that's the problem. So change the name of the team to the "Boys Named Sioux".

    June 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. BostonSteve

    E lizabeth W arren can speak on these horrific racial overtones towards n ative A mericans....oh wait No she can't....she lied about being n ative A merican in order to better herself.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bob smith

    If you read todays sports section you will see that the NCAA NAZIS really screwed it up again.. they sent a football championship banner to the wrong school up in No Dak land, shows how much really care about the issue. So lets all start a "I offended by the Fighting Irish" campaign and how far that gets.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dav1

    Anybody born in the USA is a naive American.Indians born on reservations are who knows what.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. NoloContendere

    Did anyone think to ask the Sioux Nation what they think of this? Are they insulted?

    June 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wootings

      ...did you think to RTFA before posting? Apparently not. You might want to try that some day.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. AndTheNFL?

    Does anyone else find this "Issue" ridiculous when there is a Pro team named "The Redskins"? (Which really is a racial slur...)

    June 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • shut_up

      slur?????????? you never watched thousands of western movies?? they called us palefaces?? fluke them!!!!!! stay on the reservation or we can play cowboys and indians again!!!!!!

      June 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BostonSteve

    I have no respect for the Native American. All they want is handout

    June 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. RT Shawnee

    ""What about the Fighting illini or FSU Seminoles?"" The Florida Seminole Tribe approved the use of the name and the tribe called the Illinois doesn't exist, they are extinct....

    I am Native American and some Native Americans could care less about the use of Native American mascots but derogatory images such as the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians are 100 year old racist stereotypes that should be removed. But those teams are not just teams they are big business so it's just another reminder of just how hypocritical this nation can be. Notre Dame Fighting Irish was started as a badge of honor, by Irish Catholics. They were known as the Catholics. In New England this was a racial slur. Many businesses of the day would post signs saying "No Catholics, No Irish". So the Catholics used the name and thus began to beat down everyone on the football field from the 1920's to the 1990's.

    You can say what you want about the issue but Native American mascots should be outdated unless the Tribe allows its use, PERIOD. And I could care less what White people think about the issue, it is really none of their concern.

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

      2 thoughts on your statement, which was well written and makes a lot of sense. I feel that it is hypocritical of the NCAA to allow some schools to keep their nicknames/logos while others cannot, based on tribal approval. Most schools cannot afford to pay off their related tribes the way Florida State did the seminoles. The NCAA in it's infinite wisdom should make it all or nothing. The other thought is that I certainly appreciate your statement that the issue is really not the concern of "White" people, but in reality they are the ones driving the issue.

      June 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff T

    How about the Frozen Butts? Or Maybe the Fighting Frostbites?

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

    Then let's get rid of the Fighting Irish, and all other mascots that might possibly hurt anybody else's feelings...then we can start dropping all the animal mascots so we don't irritate PETA or any animal lovers...and let's not forget to be considerate of all the Aggies out there, since they actually feed us and must be tired of being the punchline of so many bad jokes. Anybody we missed?!

    June 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. scranton

    Make it the mighty whities, who cares.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
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