Sioux Nickname supporters discount chorus of alarmA spokesman for the group seeking to preserve The University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname dismissed the contention by a growing number of UND-affiliated people that keeping the name will cost the university its membership in the Big Sky Conference or cause other significant damage.
By: By Chuck Haga , Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
A spokesman for the group seeking to preserve The University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname dismissed the contention by a growing number of UND-affiliated people that keeping the name will cost the university its membership in the Big Sky Conference or cause other significant damage.
“There is still no proof of certain expulsion from the Big Sky, nor any (proof) that the NCAA sanctions will hurt UND,” said Sean Johnson, a spokesman for the pro-nickname committee circulating petitions for statewide votes on the issue.
Johnson said the North Dakota Legislature “was willing to live with the NCAA sanctions when they passed the original law protecting the Fighting Sioux name and logo, and the people who signed petitions were willing as well.”
At the end of the day, he said, the sanctions (no hosting of post-season play, no wearing of proscribed logos during post-season play) “are a small sacrifice worth making in exchange for the greater benefit of honoring the heritage and tradition gifted us as North Dakotans by the Sioux people.”
The fight over the nickname is about more than athletics, he said.
“This is about standing on truth and principle, and setting an example for future generations that values and conviction mean something,” he said. “To focus on any perceived damages to the athletics program at this point, over the real damage that will occur to the Sioux people, is to not fully grasp the true scope of this issue as a whole.
“The people of North Dakota want a say in this matter, as they should be able to have since these schools ultimately belong to them. We will continue to work to give them that say at the ballot box.”
The Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe’s pro-nickname Committee for Understanding and Respect filed petitions bearing more than 17,000 signatures with the secretary of state’s office on Feb. 7, seeking a vote in June on the repeal of the original nickname law adopted in April.
That law directed UND to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. It was repealed in November after state leaders failed to persuade the NCAA to back off sanctions against UND.
A number of current and former UND officials and coaches have publicly urged that the university be allowed to retire the nickname, and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem asked the state Supreme Court on Friday to issue a declaratory judgment that the nickname law — and the referendum designed to restore it — are unconstitutional.
The pro-nickname group also is circulating petitions for an initiated measure to amend the state Constitution on the November general election ballot.
In addition to the petition drives, Spirit Lake has filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA concerning its policy on member schools’ use of American Indian names and imagery and how that policy was applied to UND.
Chuck Haga is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.