Three bills seeking to preserve Fighting Sioux nickname to get joint hearingThree bills seeking to preserve UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname will get a joint hearing next week before the North Dakota House Education Committee.
By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald
Three bills seeking to preserve UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname will get a joint hearing next week before the North Dakota House Education Committee.
Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, who chairs the committee, said the bills will be scheduled at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Capitol’s Brynhild Haugland Room.
“I plan to schedule all three at the same time so that individuals can comment on all, one or two of the bills and not need to come forward again,” Kelsch said.
“I am hearing that the room will be packed with individuals on both sides of the issue,” she said.
Bills proposed by Rep. David Monson, R-Osnabrock, and Rep. Duane DeKrey, R-Tappen, would prohibit UND and the State Board of Higher Education from retiring the symbols unless the Standing Rock Sioux tribe refuses permission through a tribal referendum.
That “negative option” approach would reverse the procedure outlined in a 2007 lawsuit settlement between UND and the NCAA, which stipulated that UND was to retire the nickname unless the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake tribes gave their OK.
Spirit Lake voters approved the continued use of Fighting Sioux by a two-to-one margin, but attempts by nickname proponents to arrange a vote at Standing Rock failed. The tribal council there eventually reaffirmed earlier council pronouncements opposing the nickname and declared the matter closed.
Meanwhile, David Gipp, a UND alum and president of Untied Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, sent a letter Wednesday to all legislators urging them not to continue the nickname controversy. Gipp was born and raised on the Standing Rock Reservation and is a member of the Lakota-Nakota-Dakota Nation.
The nickname bills have some weight behind them, and sponsors say they have broad support from other legislators and the public.
Monson is a former House speaker and assistant majority leader. DeKrey is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
The third bill, introduced by House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, would simply bar UND from dropping the nickname, and there is no reference to obtaining authorization from Standing Rock.
If the NCAA were to penalize UND for retaining it, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem would be directed to file an antitrust lawsuit against the athletics association, according to the Carlson measure.
Stenehjem has raised constitutional questions about all three bills, citing the Board of Higher Education’s status as an independent state agency with constitutional authority to oversee operations of institutions under its control.
Grant Shaft, a Grand Forks attorney and member of the higher education board, is expected to explain the board’s actions regarding the longstanding nickname controversy to the House committee. But the board decided last week to stay neutral on the proposed legislation, which would overturn the board’s April 2010 directive to UND President Robert Kelley to begin the transition away from the nickname and logo.
The transition began last spring with the formation of two task forces, including one charged with finding ways to honor the history and traditions associated with the 80-year-old nickname and the logo, which has undergone several transformations over the years.
That group recently adopted and sent to Kelley a report recommending discontinuance of the Sioux name for a variety of nonathletic uses by the Aug. 15 transition deadline, in addition to all athletics-related uses. The university’s athletic teams, notably the hockey team, are allowed to continue using the name through the current academic year.
UND has a timetable for discontinuing the licensing of Fighting Sioux apparel and other goods, and a task group on communications has sought to keep all “stakeholders” in the nickname controversy up to date. A third group may be formed to begin looking for a new nickname and logo.
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