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New Standing Rock petition: Keep position on nickname

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council has another petition to mull over concerning the Fighting Sioux nickname -- but this manifest of 1,010 names urges the council to stand by a 1992 tribal council resolution asking UND to drop its use of the n...

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council has another petition to mull over concerning the Fighting Sioux nickname -- but this manifest of 1,010 names urges the council to stand by a 1992 tribal council resolution asking UND to drop its use of the name and logo.

The petition, presented to Tribal Chairman Charles Murphy on Friday, was circulated by enrolled members of the tribe who also are alumni of the university.

Nickname supporters on the reservation presented petitions bearing 1,004 signatures to the Tribal Council in March. They have had several meetings with Murphy to try to arrange certification of their petition signatures and a reservation-wide vote.

The anti-nickname petition contains signatures only of Standing Rock tribal members who are at least 18 years old and reside on the reservation, and at least 15 backers are enrolled tribal members and graduates or former students at UND, said Chase Iron Eyes, of Bismarck, the group's spokesman.

Iron Eyes graduated from UND in 2000 with a degree in political science and American Indian studies, later earning a law degree at Denver University.


"When I first attended UND, I didn't have an opinion on the nickname one way or the other," he said Saturday. "But if you are American Indian at UND, you're going to have to form an opinion.

"I grew up on the reservation. It's a complicated thing when you put yourself into a different environment where people have been affected by hundreds of years of misinformation."

He said the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo "objectify the Sioux people and all Indian people and dictate what people think an Indian is."

Iron Eyes said he served as president of the UND Indian Association while at the university and participated in many conversations about the nickname.

"I never thought this would take on the life it has," he said.


Archie Fool Bear, a leader of the pro-nickname effort, said his group's petition also meets tribal election law requirements.

"They can say all they want. They're desperate," he said of the new petition's circulators. "The people who signed our petition are from Standing Rock, they are 18, and they want their vote.


"We didn't deceive anybody or advocate for anything," Fool Bear added. "All we told people was that we wanted them to have their say."

He faulted members of the Tribal Council for "finding ways to put this off and stymie us," and he said some council members "are afraid to have a vote because they have taken a personal stand and they might have to eat crow."

Iron Eyes said the nickname and Indian head logo "simply have no place in an evolving society" and should go.

"I have respect for Archie," he said. "It just shows that reasonable people can disagree, and it shows we are a complex people. We don't all think the same way all the time."

In circulating his petition, Iron Eyes said he was assisted by Ira Taken Alive and Wastewin Young, who were students at UND with him, among others.

Despite the State Board of Higher Education's April 8 directive to UND to officially retire the nickname and logo, "several nickname and logo proponents at Standing Rock have persisted in lobbying the council to pay for a non-binding, reservation-wide election to assess tribal members' views on the 'Fighting Sioux' nickname and logo," they wrote in their statement.

The new petition "specifically asks the SRST Council to hold fast to its longstanding position. The process of gathering signatures on the petition was in accordance with SRST election laws."

Nov. 30 deadline


The new petition, like the first, will have to be certified, and it's unclear how long that process will take. After meeting last week with nickname supporters, Murphy said he would schedule a council meeting last Wednesday to consider the supporters' petition, and he said he would assign a second tribal official to help with certification.

The council meeting did not happen Wednesday. Murphy said he would try to convene one this week.

The Fighting Sioux nickname supporters are hoping to have a popular vote on the matter before Nov. 30, the deadline set in a lawsuit settlement agreement with the NCAA for UND to win approval from the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes.

Spirit Lake voters gave their blessing to continued use of the Fighting Sioux nickname in a two-thirds majority vote last year, and nickname supporters there have urged Standing Rock officials to allow a plebiscite on their reservation as well.

In mid-April, several Spirit Lake members appealed to Gov. John Hoeven to "correct this wrong" by persuading the state board to delay action on the nickname. Hoeven later wrote to the chancellor of the North Dakota University System, urging him to "give due consideration to any vote by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe" regarding the nickname if a vote occurs before Nov. 30.

On May 6, however, UND President Robert Kelley outlined a process to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo over the course of a year. Because of licensing and contractual agreements, the symbols will continue to be used through the coming school year, he told the University Senate.

Nickname supporters acknowledge the chances of retaining it are slim, but they still hold out hope the State Board can be persuaded to reverse its decision to retire the 80-year-old nickname.

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

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