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North Dakota expected to finally give up the fight, retire Fighting Sioux nickname

Aug 13, 2011, 5:42 PM EDT

North Dakota Fighting Sioux

After a contentious battle, it appears that the University of North Dakota is going to give up their fight to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname.

For years, the school has adopted the Native American name and look to their athletic team logos but now after pressure from the NCAA and a lack of support from one of two Lakota Indian tribes, the school is expected to retire the “Fighting Sioux” name and imagery from being associated with their athletic teams.

The nickname over recent years was found to be “hostile and abusive” towards Native Americans and the NCAA flexed their muscle on UND to get the name changed by threatening sanctions on their athletic teams if they persisted in fighting the change. Banning them from postseason play in sports such as football and hockey were threatened and with the UND hockey program being as big and popular as it is, these threats were taken seriously.

After meetings between NCAA officials and North Dakota representatives including state governor Jack Dalrymple, the NCAA feels confident that their wishes will be met.

“It’s our understanding coming out of this meeting that the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo will be dropped,” said NCAA VP for communications Bob Williams in the article. “The contingent from North Dakota made it clear that they were committed to changing the legislative action that would require retention of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. However, our settlement agreement remains in effect and as a result, the University of North Dakota will be subject to the policy effective Aug. 15.”

While the North Dakota legislature tried their best to fight the efforts made by the state board of education and the wishes of the NCAA by passing a law making a change to the nickname only possible through the state government, it’ll take an action by the governor to transfer that power back to the board of education and hope that the legislature approves it to allow the retirement to happen. While there could be more holdups by the government here, it’s clear that the fight to keep a nickname and appearance that the NCAA finds to be abusive has grown tired.

The tricky part of all this is how the school will handle obscuring and covering up the many Fighting Sioux logos throughout Ralph Englestad Arena where the hockey team plays.  When Engelstad gave his money to the university to have the arena built, he demanded that there be as many Sioux logos as possible carved throughout the building knowing full well that one day the NCAA would come calling for the name. That part of the issue is still under discussion as Chuck Haga of the Grand Forks Herald discusses.

Dalrymple said the NCAA leaders also agreed that the transitioning of Ralph Engelstad Arena regarding logos and insignia will be negotiated by Stenehjem and the NCAA.

Williams confirmed that the two side “agreed to have a discussion regarding that timeline,” but he said provisions in the 2007 settlement agreement concerning what must be removed and when “remains in effect.”

Hodgson did not speak with reporters as he left the meeting. In the past he has been adamant about not stripping logos and other Sioux-related items from the privately owned arena.

This issue is just another awkward one when it comes to the entire situation. While UND has never been one to have offensive mascots (hello Washington Redskins) or crowd chants (like the Atlanta Braves) and the Fighting Sioux name was always treated with respect, they never got approval from the Standing Rock Tribe to use the name. Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Tribes were the two Native American tribes the university needed to get approval from to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and while Spirit Lake passed a referendum of their own, Standing Rock refused to vote on it.

As Haga’s piece discussed, some Native American students felt offended by the name and joined in a lawsuit against the school to get them to drop it.

The students named in the lawsuit include Lakota (Sioux) people and members of other tribes in and outside North Dakota, who have said they all suffer discrimination or discomfort because of the nickname.

All allege that the nickname has had “a profoundly negative impact” on their self-image and psychological health, and the long-running and often bitter fight has denied them “an equal educational experience and environment,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

With these kinds of complaints as well as the possibility that some athletic conferences would refuse to allow admittance to North Dakota because of the nickname problem, UND’s hand was essentially forced by those opposed to it. Is this the right move to make to respect a group of people or is this political correctness run amok yet again? After all, other universities still have Native American nicknames and aren’t being forced to change them (University of Illinois, Florida State University for example). For the Fighting Sioux and their hockey team, getting a new look and a new name will make the future a strange one.

  1. 89seminole - Aug 13, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    Thank God the Seminole Tribe in Florida realizes the importance of having a good relationship with Florida State. UND should find another tribe to work with such as the Cherokee, Choctaw, or others. They can have casinos, but their feelings get hurt over sports symbols? The tribes need to get over it and understand that the sports teams are honoring them, not disgracing them.

  2. kingjoe1 - Aug 13, 2011 at 6:12 PM

    Ironically what may appear to be a win for American Indians, this really is just more step into forgetting their existence.

  3. tk1966 - Aug 13, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    Notre Dame, you’re next…

    • comeonnowguys - Aug 14, 2011 at 4:19 PM

      Right there with you. It’s ridiculous that they get a free pass with this. You’re telling me Fighting Irish with that leprechaun mascot is less offensive than the U of Illinois Chief Illiniwek logo? With a straight face?

  4. zooropeanx - Aug 13, 2011 at 6:56 PM

    Even though the University of Illinois used Native American imagery (most notably Chief Illiniwek), the name “Fighting Illini” came from soliders, not Native Americans. From Wikipedia:

    “The name “Fighting Illini” pre-dates the Chief Illiniwek symbol and was bestowed upon the team in honor of Illinoisans who fought in World War I; the use of the name “Illini” dates to the 19th century.”

  5. derpdederpdederp - Aug 13, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    the level of political correctness in todays society is, for lack of a better description, ridiculously stupid

  6. trbowman - Aug 13, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    Everything is becoming so politically correct, christ.

    • trbowman - Aug 14, 2011 at 12:36 AM

      Are people thumbing this down because I didn’t capitalize ‘Christ?’


      • derpdederpdederp - Aug 14, 2011 at 1:41 AM

        you get a thumbs down for being concerned about thumbs down

  7. paul621 - Aug 13, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    89Seminole: “Redskins” is honoring Native Americans? Chief Wahoo? I honestly can’t think of anything much more offensive, actually. The equivalent treatment of any other race would have been shot down decades ago.

    • comeonnowguys - Aug 15, 2011 at 4:52 PM

      Don’t forget all the schmucks tomahawk-chopping the night away in Atlanta.

  8. hockeyfan1701 - Aug 15, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    A sad day for all.

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