Documentary about UND nickname saga debuts

Release was delayed due to the pandemic.

Fighting Sioux
FNS File Photo More than 300 UND students and nickname supporters dressed in their Fighting Sioux apparel for a Friday afternoon rally and group photo at Ralph Engelstad Arena on April 9, 2010. The event was held one day after the State Board of Higher Education directed the university to begin retiring the nickname.

BISMARCK -- The long-awaited documentary about the fight over the UND athletics nickname and logo was to be released this week.

Filmmaker Matt Fern announced the release of the documentary film, “Fighting Over Sioux,” on Wednesday, Nov. 25.

The 85-minute film examines the battle over UND’s 80-year-old athletics brand through interviews with tribal leaders, students, alumni, bloggers, reporters, politicians and superfans.


“This is a movie that tells the story behind the name and logo from all sides,” Fern said in a news release. “Whether you’re a superfan or never liked the name, I think you’ll learn something new in this documentary.”

The project was more than seven years in the making and was filmed across North Dakota, including in Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck, as well as throughout the Standing Rock, Spirit Lake and Turtle Mountain Indian reservations.

The film became available through Vimeo on Demand for rent or purchase on Wednesday. The film also will be shown in movie theaters across the state.

For more specifics, go to the film’s website.

The release of the documentary was delayed by several months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fern told the Herald. The film was originally slated to hit theaters in May, but the closure of theaters in North Dakota and the region slowed the release date.

To support the theaters and to promote the film, Fern said popcorn cups, stress pucks and posters were created to sell at the theaters.


For example, River City Cinema in East Grand Forks was set to play the documentary but recent COVID-19 restrictions put in place in Minnesota closed the theater. However, pucks and posters and other items to support the theater still can be purchased.

“We're able to still help their business and still help people to get popcorn and help the theater without actually seeing the movie there,” he said. “So they can pick up the popcorn and then watch it at home. That is a direct result of the pandemic.”

Despite the challenges of premiering the film during a pandemic, Fern said he hopes it will reach a wide audience online.

“It's a very interesting experiment,” he said. “The movie business is just turned upside down this year and so I'm anxious to find out what the theater sales are, what the digital rentals are, what the digital sales are.”

“Fighting Over Sioux” has been featured in film festivals across the United States, premiering at the Portland Film Festival and picking up honorable mention at the Richmond International Film Festival.

Sydney Mook has been the news editor at the Post Bulletin since June 2023. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook was previously with the Grand Forks Herald from May 2018 to June 2023. She served as the Herald's managing editor, as well as the higher education reporter.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 507-285-7771.
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