MARILYN HAGERTY: Proposal to drop North from Dakota has long, fiery historyThe UND Fighting Sioux nickname issue seems all but settled. And as fate would have it, I ran across a folder about a proposed name change for the state of North Dakota. I found this file from 40 years ago during the past week, just as I was digesting the fact that we could no longer call the UND athletic teams the Sioux.
By: Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald
The UND Fighting Sioux nickname issue seems all but settled. And as fate would have it, I ran across a folder about a proposed name change for the state of North Dakota.
I found this file from 40 years ago during the past week, just as I was digesting the fact that we could no longer call the UND athletic teams the Sioux.
Well, back in 1970, there was this move afoot to change our state’s name to Dakota. The state to the south could keep on being South Dakota.
The leader of the drive was Don Lindgren, who was proprietor of the Westward Ho here in Grand Forks. He is now retired. He is summering in Bemidji and wintering in Arizona.
In 1970, when he came up with the proposal, the response was spirited.
“Why don’t you drop dead and make a lot of people happy?” asked a letter writer from Los Angeles. “What do you mean by agitating for the name of North Dakota to be changed to Dakota? Everybody in the country knows that territory up there has long cold winters and taking North out of the name is not going to change it.”
The Fergus Falls (Minn.) Daily Journal carried an editorial commenting, “Being we are as far north as part of North Dakota, we can afford to speak plainly. We think North Dakotans should be proud to be hardy souls, thriving on the vicissitudes of inclement weather. So what if people think all the bitter storms originate in North Dakota? It is better to be known for something than not known at all.”
The late Ferd Froeschle, who was advertising manager for Melroe Co. in Gwinner, N.D., was amused by the proposal. He made some suggestions for other changes just to keep the pot boiling:
- Red River to Brown River.
- Grand Forks to Mediocre Forks.
- Valley City to Hill City.
- Devils Lake to Angels Pond.
Don Gackle who was then publisher of the McLean County Independent in Garrison, N.D., editorialized, in part, “Dakota is a fine name, in our judgment. If we recall correctly, the Indian name means friends or allies. But the word North does little for Dakota, except to tell the uninformed that it’s north of South Dakota.”
The late Harold Schafer, who was president of Gold Seal Co. in Bismarck, joined the letter writers’ responses to Lindgren. He had an interest in changing the name of the Bad Lands of North Dakota to the Good Lands. That had been suggested by Sinclair Lewis in his book “Travels with Charlie.”
The Fargo Forum asked, “What good is to be gained by eliminating North from North Dakota when it can do us a lot of good in the summertime attracting tourists?”
The Herald in 1970 said the proposal had come up every 10 or 15 years since statehood. The Herald said it had merit.
There were some who thought the designation North Dakota sounded cold and foreboding before it was named. With tongue in cheek back in 1970, the St. Paul Pioneer Press suggested the northern half of Dakota Territory be named “Uncapapa” with the capital named “Sitting Bull.”
The Chicago Tribune favored the name North Dakota saying, “The wheat crop will be just as good, and the blizzards just as bad under another name.”
The proposal to change the name of North Dakota never made it to the voting polls. The task of amassing 20,000 signers on petitions required to get it on the ballot was too overwhelming.
And, anyway, if the amendment was approved by voters it would be up to Congress. I suppose that would be something like the state legislature saying UND had to keep the nickname of the Fighting Sioux. And Congress would probably say we had to continue as North Dakota.
At any rate, the proposal faded away. It was not new back in 1971. It was not new when it bobbed up briefly again in 2001.
Reach Marilyn Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (701) 772-1055.