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FIGHTING SIOUX NICKNAME: Reaching out to 'friends'

Supporters of the Fighting Sioux nickname, mindful that winter can be a difficult time to go door to door in search of petition signers, are using social media to promote their petitions seeking statewide votes on the issue.

Fighting Sioux logo
Fighting Sioux logo (AP Photo/University of North Dakota via The Dickinson Press, File)

Supporters of the Fighting Sioux nickname, mindful that winter can be a difficult time to go door to door in search of petition signers, are using social media to promote their petitions seeking statewide votes on the issue.

The Facebook page "No more Fighting Sioux = No more alumni donations to UND" provides links for people who want to download petitions for a referendum and initiated measure, and it was encouraging potential circulators to gather outside Saturday night's UND hockey game at Ralph Engelstad Arena and the NDSU Bison playoff football game Saturday in Fargo.

An Engelstad Arena spokesman said, however, that building policy does not allow "political activity" on arena property. Also, a request by nickname supporters to set up a petition table at a mall in Bismarck has been rejected.

The petition drives started earlier this week after North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger approved the petition forms. One seeks to force a June referendum on the Legislature's repeal last month of a law requiring UND to retain the name, while the second aims at putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot next November.

A posting Friday on the "No more" Facebook page told readers, "While not yet 'approved,' don't be surprised if you see Save the Sioux petition circulators at (or) near the Sioux hockey game Saturday night!" Later postings encouraged circulators to meet at the Sitting Bull statue near the arena's main entrance.


Chris Semrau, a spokesman for the Engelstad Arena, said Friday that arena officials "have not been asked ... and do not plan to allow petitions to be circulated in the arena" or on arena property.

"We have no role in the efforts to get this onto the ballot," he said, and "it is a building policy that we don't support or entertain political activity at the venue, and this would be considered as such."

Semrau said arena officials would "respectfully ask folks not to circulate those petitions on the property" surrounding the arena.

He noted, however, that UND has designated a "free speech zone" in front of the nearby UND Bookstore, "in a parking lot we do not control." That zone was the site of earlier protests against the Fighting Sioux name and logo.

Going statewide

Petition backers are seeking indoor locations, where it would be easier this winter to find and approach potential signers. One person commenting on the Facebook posting Friday said he was "trying to reserve a table in the (UND Memorial Student Union) once school starts again in January." That will require sponsorship by a student group, he wrote, but "I think it will work out."

On Thursday, "Bismarck Fighting Sioux supporters" were advised that "we won't be able to set up a table" at Kirkwood Mall.

"They have a policy forbidding political and religious causes from setting up in the mall. ... We are looking into other options. In the meantime if you are in Bismarck circulating, please reply to this thread so arrangements can be made."


Other people commenting on the page identified and provided contact information for petition circulators in Bismarck (including a former mayor), Grand Forks, Grafton, Cavalier, Park River, Walhalla and other locations.

"We will have Save the Sioux petitions at the Bison game on Saturday!" another wrote, noting that circulators plan to work tailgating areas and the entrance to the Fargodome. People who want to help were urged to muster at 10 a.m. for a briefing.

A woman who lives outside North Dakota wrote to ask whether she could sign a petition. She was told that only state residents may sign, but she could help the effort by emailing friends in North Dakota and by donating financially to the campaign.

On another Facebook page devoted to the nickname, posters Friday noted that petitions were circulating in the Hope and Finley areas but that more circulators were needed in the southwestern part of the state.

Frank Black Cloud, a spokesman for the Spirit Lake Nation's Committee for Understanding and Respect and a member of the petitions' sponsoring committee, reported on Facebook that he and his wife collected 200 signatures in the drive's first two days.

"We should have no problems hitting our goals," he wrote.

The referral petitions need about 13,500 signatures filed by Feb. 7 to make the June primary election ballot. The petitions for an initiated measure, for an amendment enshrining the nickname in the state Constitution, require about 27,000 signatures by Aug. 8 to make the November 2012 general election ballot.

The Spirit Lake committee's web site, www.savethefightingsioux.com , also urges people to get involved in the referendum and initiative campaigns through Twitter, email and YouTube.


Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 102; or send email to chaga@gfherald.com .

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