Reservation prepares for nickname voteAs members of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe prepare to vote on the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, the foundation named for the late Ralph Engelstad says it will live with the tribes’ decision.
GRAND FORKS (AP) — As members of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe prepare to vote on the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, the foundation named for the late Ralph Engelstad says it will live with the tribes’ decision.
Under a settlement with the NCAA, UND must have the support of the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes to continue using the nickname and Indian head logo without penalties. The NCAA considers them hostile and abusive. Supporters say they are used with pride and respect.
Nickname supporters on the Spirit Lake reservation got enough signatures to put the issue to a vote Tuesday. No vote has been scheduled on the Standing Rock reservation.
“If the Sioux people of North Dakota don’t want the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo to be used by UND’s athletic programs, we are willing to live with their decision,” a statement from the Engelstad Family Foundation said.
Engelstad, a former UND goalie and Las Vegas casino owner who died in 2002, used the Fighting Sioux logo throughout the $100-plus million hockey arena he built at UND. He once threatened to stop construction if then-UND President Charles Kupchella changed the nickname and logo. The state Board of Higher Education voted to keep both.
Nickname opponents have distributed fliers on the Spirit Lake reservation alleging Engelstad used an offensive racial epithet 12 years ago in a bar to refer to Sioux Indians. The Engelstad family is outraged by the fliers and denies the allegation.
Erich Longie, a leading nickname opponent, told the Grand Forks Herald it did not matter whether the allegations are true or false. He said nickname opponents are fighting a wealthy foundation causing turmoil on the reservation.
“In this instance, being concerned about what Ralph may or may not have said is not the issue,” Longie said.
“The allegations made against my father by name and logo opponents are the most cowardly and despicable allegations I have ever heard,” said Kris Engelstad McGarry in a prepared statement from the Engelstad Family Foundation. “My father cared deeply for the people of North Dakota, and he spoke very fondly of American Indians.”
Nickname opponents are using “race-based fear,” the foundation said.
The foundation, the Ralph Engelstad Arena and Spirit Lake nickname supporters say the arena and the foundation are not funding the pro-nickname campaign on the reservation. Eunice Davidson, a cousin of Longie’s and a leader of nickname supporters, said their donations come from Spirit Lake tribal members.