Board extends nickname deadline for Fighting Siouxby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
Grand Forks, N.D. — The North Dakota board of higher education is offering new hope to supporters of the Fighting Sioux nickname.
The board Thursday voted to extend for up to 60 days, a deadline for the University of North Dakota to end use of the nickname and logo.
Board members say they want to give the newly-elected leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe more time to consider the nickname issue. Preliminary results from a tribal election held Wednesday at Standing Rock indicate Charles Murphy, who supports the Fighting Sioux logo, will be the new tribal chairman.
The NCAA says UND can keep the Fighting Sioux nickname only if the state has 30-year agreements with both Sioux tribes in the state. The Spirit Lake tribe has voted to support continued use of the nickname.
The board of higher education says it wants to give the democratic process time to work at Standing Rock.
But nickname opponents say it's an issue of ethics, not elections.
UND Associate Professor of Indian Studies Greg Gagnon, said a referendum is the wrong way to solve the issue.
"I find it unfortunate people think a civil rights issue should be decided by a vote," Gagnon said. "It would be like if 90 percent of people voted to call a group of people a racial epithet. Could they do it? Yeah, they could do it. But is it ethically right? No."
But some Standing Rock tribal members say the nickname decision shouldn't be made by a few elected officials. Steve Fool Bear said everyone should have a voice. Some nickname opponents charge UND supporters will try to influence votes on the reservation by handing out free hats and jerseys.
Fool Bear said he's tired of outsiders trying to tell tribal members what to do.
"To sit there and assume 'oh it's that easy to buy Indians votes, just give them a hat or a T-shirt,'" Fool Bear said. "Come on, this is the 21st century. We're a proud, intelligent and enduring culture. We're not going to sell out for a hat and a T-shirt."
The newly-elected Standing Rock Tribal council now has 30 days to decide if it will hold a tribal referendum. The tribal council can then ask for another 30-day extension.
For the University of North Dakota to keep using the Fighting Sioux nickname, Standing Rock will need to approve its use. And the state will need to negotiate binding contracts of at least 30 years with both the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock tribes.
That's a concern for higher education board member Mike Haugen of Fargo. He was the only board member to vote against the deadline extension.
"I'm very concerned that we are laying a requirement on the tribes of a 30-year commitment, which is something even our own legislature would refuse to do," Haugen said.
Board members say they will not extend the deadline past the end of November. The NCAA set a deadline of next February for UND. By then, the school must gain tribal support for the Fighting Sioux mascot or stop using it.
- All Things Considered, 10/01/2009, 4:55 p.m.