SBD/June 13, 2012/Colleges

North Dakota Residents Overwhelmingly Vote To Retire UND's Fighting Sioux Nickname

Advocates for retiring the Fighting Sioux name fear it hurts recruiting, scheduling
North Dakota residents yesterday voted by a 2-1 margin "overwhelmingly favoring a ballot measure" that would allow the Univ. of North Dakota "to say goodbye" to the school's Fighting Sioux nickname, according to Chuck Haga of the GRAND FORKS HERALD. While results are unofficial, votes for a ballot measure allowing the school to drop the name "topped the 'no' vote" by 67.4% to 32.62%. Grand Forks County, which includes UND, voted 70.4% to 29.6% to drop the name. Sioux County, home to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, also voted for the initiative. The vote turnout there was "surprisingly low, given the importance nickname supporters had placed on giving Standing Rock people a voice in the long-running dispute." Sean Johnson, a spokesperson for the group that sought the nickname referendum, blamed a "lot of false fears generated by the foundation," a reference to the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. That group "took the lead in encouraging a vote to allow UND to retire the nickname." The alumni groups and other organizations claimed that keeping the name "could severely damage UND because of NCAA sanctions." Haga notes while it is uncertain "whether nickname supporters will push for another vote, two federal lawsuits involve the Fighting Sioux nickname, one by Indian students at UND who oppose its use, the other by the Spirit Lake Nation against the NCAA on behalf of the school" (GRAND FORKS HERALD, 6/13). The vote "sends the matter back to the state's Board of Higher Education, which is expected to retire the moniker and American Indian head logo." However, the group that "collected petitions for the ballot measure has said it will pursue another vote in the fall to make Fighting Sioux part of the state constitution." Advocates for retitring the nickname claim that the issue "is hurting the athletic department in recruiting and scheduling." Some even fear it "could affect the school's standing in the Big Sky Conference" (AP, 6/12).
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