Tribal voters approve Fighting Sioux nicknameMembers of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe say they’re proud of the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname and they showed it with their votes. State officials say the tribal vote is just one of the factors they must consider. Results from the tribe’s primary election, announced Wednesday by the tribal election committee, showed 764 votes in favor of UND’s nickname and Indian head logo and 371 against it.
FORT TOTTEN, (AP) — Members of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe say they’re proud of the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname and they showed it with their votes. State officials say the tribal vote is just one of the factors they must consider.
Results from the tribe’s primary election, announced Wednesday by the tribal election committee, showed 764 votes in favor of UND’s nickname and Indian head logo and 371 against it.
Under a settlement with the NCAA, UND needs approval from the Sioux tribes in the state to continue using the nickname and Indian-head logo without penalties. The NCAA considers it hostile and abusive.
An NCAA spokesman did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday on the tribal vote.
“Racism has been around forever, whether the name changes or not,” said Ivan Lovejoy Sr., a tribal election committee member who announced the vote totals. He said he supports the nickname and logo.
North Dakota University System Chancellor William Goetz said the vote is just one issue to be considered by a committee set up by the state Board of Higher Education studying whether to abolish the nickname.
“The committee is looking at a number of different issues,” Goetz said. “What took place on Spirit Lake is one piece of it. Certainly the committee’s going to have other considerations to make as well before it reports to the board.”
While the vote does not resolve the issue, it is “the first direct voice we’ve heard from the reservation,” said Grant Shaft, the committee chairman.
Some schools have refused to play UND because of the nickname, and representatives of the Summit League athletic conference have said they would not consider UND for membership until the nickname issue is resolved.
Eunice Davidson, a nickname supporter who gathered enough signatures to put the issue to a vote on the Spirit Lake reservation, said her ancestors were fighting Sioux, and she is proud of the name.
“The people spoke,” Davidson said Wednesday. “I hope the rest of the country and the NCAA hears that.”
Tribal Chairwoman Myra Pearson declined comment.
Frank Black Cloud wore his UND Fighting Sioux hat to the tribal offices Wednesday.
“I’ve been called every name in the book, but I’m proud to be called a Fighting Sioux because that’s what I am,” Black Cloud said.
An opponent of the nickname, Terry Morgan, said the election results make him “embarrassed and ashamed for our people.”
Morgan said, “If it hurts one person, why use it?”
The Spirit Lake tribe, in northeastern North Dakota, has about 7,000 enrolled members, including about 4,000 on the reservation.
No official nickname vote has been scheduled on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, which straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. Standing Rock leaders have opposed the nickname and logo.
Nickname opponents alleged the Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Engelstad Family Foundation, named for the late UND benefactor Ralph Engelstad, who built the $100 million hockey arena filled with Fighting Sioux logos on the UND campus, had helped finance the pro-nickname campaign. The foundation and arena officials denied that.
“At the end of the day, it’s a university issue. It’s not an arena issue,” arena manager Jody Hodgson said Wednesday. “Obviously, the people of Spirit Lake are very intelligent and they saw through the tactics of the opponents who tried to campaign as they did.”
R.J. Yankton, another tribal supporter of the nickname, said he has no problems with UND’s use of it. He said he brought his entire family to vote, even though not all of them voted for the nickname.
“What everyone wanted was the chance to vote on it,” Yankton said, “and the election results should speak for themselves.”