Nickname backers say logo won’t hurt athleticsThe University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux name and logo represent cultural diversity and have “done nothing to harm UND and its students,” John Chaske, chairman of the pro-nickname Committee for Understanding and Respect, said at a news conference here Wednesday. “We challenge these statements about the harm the Fighting Sioux name and symbols bring to UND,” he said. “Someone is holding these UND student athletes hostage.
By: By Chuck Haga , Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — The University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux name and logo represent cultural diversity and have “done nothing to harm UND and its students,” John Chaske, chairman of the pro-nickname Committee for Understanding and Respect, said at a news conference here Wednesday.
“We challenge these statements about the harm the Fighting Sioux name and symbols bring to UND,” he said. “Someone is holding these UND student athletes hostage.
“Who is really hurting the student athletes at UND? Where is the true source of this harm coming from? The real source of harm is the NCAA and its policies and sanctions against UND, not the Fighting Sioux name and symbol.”
UND and North Dakota Board of Higher Education officials have warned that a continuing fight over the nickname will, because of NCAA sanctions, risk UND’s membership in the Big Sky Conference and cause severe damage to UND athletics.
Chaske, an elder of the Spirit Lake tribe, asked that the NCAA, UND, the State Board of Higher Education and the state “do the right thing, and instead of destroying something special stand with us and build something real.
“Citizens, stand with us ... in our efforts to preserve our heritage. Our rights are your rights,” Chaske said.
He said the committee “appreciates all the support and positive energy from the people of North Dakota,” including the more than 17,000 people who signed petitions to put the nickname issue on the June 12 primary election ballot.
“We’re in this for the long haul, and we’re doing this for our people and ... the University of North Dakota,” he said.
If the June measure were to fail, Chaske said the committee would continue collecting petitions for an initiated measure seeking to put the nickname into the state Constitution through a vote in November.
North Dakota leaders, armed with the new nickname law, went to Indianapolis last August to see whether that indication of popular support for the Fighting Sioux name might make a difference. It didn’t, as NCAA leaders stood firm and said the university would face sanctions if the name were retained.
Sanctions went into effect three days after that meeting at NCAA headquarters.
Chaske said he remains convinced that the NCAA, if presented with a statewide North Dakota vote supporting the nickname — including clear support at Standing Rock — would relent in its position on UND’s noncompliance with NCAA policy on use of American Indian names and imagery.
“I don’t have any evidence for that,” he said, “but I believe they’re going to look at it in a different light” if the vote is for keeping the nickname.
takes issue with UND alumni director
Frank Burggraf, Fargo, who played on Sioux hockey teams from 1978 to 1982 and is a member of the sponsoring committee for the petition drives, took issue with a letter distributed last week by UND Alumni Association leader Tim O’Keefe, who warned of risks to UND if the nickname controversy persists.
“He does not speak for all the alumni,” Burggraf said, adding that he has “heard from people in all sports” who support his efforts on behalf of keeping the name.
He criticized O’Keefe and others who have spoken of what “could” or “might” happen to UND through NCAA sanctions, calling it “misrepresentation” and playing to fear.
Terry Vaulters, who said he is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said that he has never seen UND’s use of the Sioux name as disrespectful.
The Standing Rock Tribal Council “wouldn’t let the people vote on this,” he said. “That’s why we’re here now,” trying to persuade the NCAA to relent. Speaking to people “who are undecided in this debate,” Chaske said, “open your hearts and minds for the truth. We only ask for the opportunity for our voice to be heard.”
He said UND “is a great institution with a rich tradition” in academics as well as athletics, plus “80 years of Sioux pride and tradition.”
The current debate is “an excellent opportunity for UND to triple its efforts and be a model for others (and) allow both cultures to learn about each other.”
He said the pro-nickname group seeks to honor the wishes of forefathers who “gave this name with careful consideration,” and “we believe the decision of a sovereign tribe regarding when and how its name may be used must be respected, even if others disagree.”
From other Spirit
Karen Greyeyes, 66, an enrolled member at Spirit Lake who also has ties to Standing Rock, objected to the position taken by the nickname supporters and their claim to be speaking for the tribe.
In an email, she said she has “many friends and relatives who do not believe Natives should be used as mascots. ... It was wrong and stupid for the Tribal Council to give the ‘committee’ the right to speak for us.
“The fight against using Natives as mascots will never go away,” she wrote. “The laws may change, but the fight against it will not. Use another race of people as a mascot and see what happens.”
Erich Longie, a longtime nickname opponent at Spirit Lake, also objected to the pro-nickname campaign, suggesting that despite the 2009 tribal referendum supporting UND’s use of the name, a great many people at Spirit Lake oppose its use.
Also, he said, “It is sickening to read about disingenuous non-Indians saying the NCAA is insulting us. They don’t care about us Indians before they needed us, they don’t care about us now, and they will not care about us no matter how the issue is settled.”
Chuck Haga is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum