A look at the nickname appeal process
When the state of North Dakota agreed to a settlement with the NCAA over UND's Fighting Sioux nickname, the intent was to put the state's Sioux tribes in control when it comes to the nickname's fate, an attorney representing some nickname support...
When the state of North Dakota agreed to a settlement with the NCAA over UND's Fighting Sioux nickname, the intent was to put the state's Sioux tribes in control when it comes to the nickname's fate, an attorney representing some nickname supporters is saying in his brief appealing to the state Supreme Court.
Pat Morley had filed a lawsuit in November on behalf of a group of tribal members from one of the tribes, the Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation, to stop the State Board of Higher Education from retiring a year ahead of the Nov. 30, 2010, deadline stated in the settlement.
But he lost.
District Judge Michael Sturdevant ruled in December that he couldn't find anything in the settlement that said the board had to keep the nickname until the deadline. The state constitution, in fact, gives the board full control of universities, including their athletic teams' nicknames.
Doug Bahr, the solicitor general, is representing the state, and he continues to argue that the settlement is between the state and the NCAA, not the tribes. The nickname supporters simply don't have any standing to sue, he says in his brief.
The court is scheduled to hear both sides' arguments March 23.
Where Bahr relies on a strict reading of what the settlement language, Morley is arguing on the original intent of those that signed the settlement.
He cited a paragraph in the settlement that says "UND recognizes that North Dakota Sioux tribes, as descendants of the indigenous people of the Northern Great Plains who UND strive to honor with its name have important contributions in determining whether, to what extent and in what manner the 'Sioux' name and the 'Fighting Sioux' name or logo should continue to be used in conjuncture with the athletic tradition at UND."
This, he says, means the state had intended to allow the tribes to weigh in.
So far, the Spirit Lake Tribal Council has weighed in, granting its blessings following a referendum.
But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's council has not called for a referendum. Nickname supporters there are gathering signatures to get the council to change its mind.
The state had earlier sued the NCAA to make it stop trying to penalize UND for using the nickname. The NCAA considers American Indian nicknames offensive. Both sides reached a settlement in late 2007 that said UND can keep the nickname if both the state's Sioux tribes approve.
The state has since changed its mind on the Nov. 30, 2010, deadline because it wants to allow UND to apply to join the Summit League athletic conference, which the university considers important to its Division I transition.
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