Posted 4/14/10 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux are no more. No UND didn’t dump its sports program. It is just going to have to find a new nickname and logo that will become synonymous with the university.
And after having virtually the same logo and nickname for over 80 years, it’s going to be a tough challenge. Since 1930, the University of North Dakota’s logo and nickname for its sporting teams has been the Fighting Sioux. Prior to that, the University of North Dakota sporting teams were known as the Flickertails.
But last week’s ruling by the North Dakota Supreme Court, which said the North Dakota Board of Higher Education had the right to drop the name and logo immediately, and then the board taking swift action to do so brought to the end a four-year legal battle and over three decades of controversy over the name.
For years, the controversy over the name remained mostly local, or at least amongst North Dakotans, with many Native Americans saying the use of the words “Fighting Sioux” and an Indian head as the logo were demeaning and derogatory to them. Proponents of the name claimed that they were used with honor and the utmost respect.
But all of that changed in 2005 when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) banned the use of college logos and nicknames it considered “hostile and abusive” during post-season play. Since that time, all of the other colleges and universities with so called “offending nicknames and logos,” with the exception of the University of North Dakota, were able to either have the Native Americans vote to accept their nicknames or they changed them.
While UND was able get the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe to agree to the continued use of the name, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe never got the issue to a vote among its members.
To further cloud the issue, the Summit League, which UND was hoping to compete in at the D1 level of sports, made it clear that the university would not be admitted into the league until the controversy was resolved.
In reality, the Board of Higher Education and the University of North Dakota were in a no-win situation when it came to the continued use of the “Fighting Sioux” name and the use of the Indian head logo.
In the end, for as much as those of us that were Fighting Sioux fans wanted to keep the name, the Higher Education Board made the only decision that it could by deciding to retire the name and the logo.
No matter what new nickname and logo is presented for the University of North Dakota, you know that the athletes, student body and fans will hold it to the same high standards that they did when they proudly proclaimed themselves as “Fighting Sioux.”