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Nickname a saga stretching decades

Revered by many but offensive to some American Indians, UND's Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo were retired last year after a long and sometimes bitter fight that reached into classrooms and arenas, the UND Alumni Association and the ...

Revered by many but offensive to some American Indians, UND's Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo were retired last year after a long and sometimes bitter fight that reached into classrooms and arenas, the UND Alumni Association and the North Dakota Legislature, voting booths and the courts.


1930s: UND athletic teams, formerly the Flickertails, gradually begin using the nickname Sioux, later Fighting Sioux. A series of Indian head logos includes a cartoonish Sammy Sioux.

1960s: With more Indian students on campus, activism grows and complaints about "stereotypical" images become more common.

1969: Sioux Indians from Standing Rock give UND President George Starcher the name "Yankton Chief" in a campus ceremony at which, according to nickname supporters, elders from Spirit Lake and Standing Rock authorize use of the name Fighting Sioux by UND athletic teams.


1972: A fraternity ice sculpture using a Sioux Indian image leads to protests. UND President Tom Clifford mediates, and the university agrees to quit using images that may reflect poorly on American Indians, including Sammy Sioux.

1976: UND introduces a geometric Indian-head symbol as the official logo but retains a popular Blackhawk Indian logo for the hockey team.

1992: Racial slurs and rude gestures aimed at Native American students and children during UND's Homecoming parade spark renewed protests against the nickname. President Kendall Baker orders a study.

1993: The Blackhawk logo is removed from UND hockey uniforms. Baker visits reservations in North Dakota and reports he didn't sense an overwhelming conviction the nickname should be changed.

1999: N.D. House votes 71-26 against urging UND to drop its nickname. UND's Student Senate approves a motion asking UND to drop the name, but the student president vetoes it. New Indian head logo is unveiled, created by noted American Indian artist Bennett Brien. Ralph Engelstad gives $100 million for a hockey arena and other projects at UND.

2001: Engelstad says in a blunt letter to President Charles Kupchella that he will abandon the project if UND drops its Fighting Sioux nickname. The state Board of Higher Education votes 8-0 to keep the nickname and the new logo. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights calls for an end to Indian nicknames at non-Indian schools. In August, workers scrape a Sioux Indian head logo from the floor of Hyslop Sports Center after Kupchella orders its removal. In October, Ralph Engelstad Arena is dedicated; total cost exceeds $100 million.

2005: UND has no intention of changing its nickname and logo, the school tells the NCAA in a 50-page response to questions the athletic organization poses. In August, the NCAA seeks to end use of American Indian nicknames and imagery it deems "hostile or abusive," putting UND and 17 other schools at risk of being excluded from hosting any national championship. UND appeals, and NCAA's review committee denies the appeal.

2006: The UND Indian Association, a student group, votes 26-2 to oppose the name because "use of American Indian names and logos in athletics is demeaning whether intended or not." In October, the state takes the NCAA to court to challenge its position on the nickname. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says the lawsuit alleges a breach of contract and illegal restraint of trade. Grand Forks County District Judge Lawrence Jahnke grants a preliminary injunction allowing UND to retain the nickname and logo until the case goes to trial. The University of Minnesota says it won't compete against UND in any sport except men's and women's hockey because of the nickname.


2007: Award-winning author Louise Erdrich declines an honorary degree from UND because of the "Fighting Sioux" name and logo. REA hires Sam Dupris of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe in South Dakota to meet with tribal officials in North Dakota about the nickname. Cheyenne River leaders later distance themselves from Dupris and reaffirm their opposition. In October, NCAA and UND end their court battle, the school agreeing to drop the nickname and logo if it is unable within three years to win support from the two namesake tribes. The NCAA agrees to retract its statement that UND's nickname and logo created a "hostile or abusive" environment on campus. Standing Rock Tribal Council reaffirms opposition to the nickname and logo. Removing Fighting Sioux logos from the REA would cost more than $1 million, manager Jody Hodgson says.

2008: North Dakota University System Chancellor Bill Goetz meets with Standing Rock Chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder to discuss the nickname. A UND sorority is sanctioned after a party where members and guests donned mock American Indian garb. Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson urges his alma mater to "do the right thing" and resolve the nickname controversy. State Board sets an action plan to deal with the controversy.

2009: Summit League says UND's application for membership won't be considered until issue is resolved. A resolution opposing the nickname passes UND's University Senate 25-17, with unanimous opposition from student senators. On April 21, a Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe referendum supports continued use of the nickname and logo by better than a 2-1 margin, but the State Board directs UND to drop the name and logo unless it can obtain binding 30-year agreements with both namesake tribes by Oct. 1. In May the board directs Goetz to tell UND President Robert Kelley to start the transition. Supporters from the Spirit Lake Tribe dispute the board's authority to change the nickname before the NCAA-mandated deadline and file a lawsuit to block them from making the decision. The lawsuit also would buy time for a potential vote at Standing Rock. A district court judge rules the board does have the authority to change the name before the deadline.

2010: In January, nickname supporters on Spirit Lake appeal the district court's decision to the state Supreme Court. The high court rejects the appeal in April, and the same day the state board President Richie Smith says the board will stand by its May 2009 decision to change the nickname. After an appeal from Spirit Lake nickname supporters, Gov. John Hoeven asks Chancellor Goetz to give due consideration to any vote on the nickname at Standing Rock if it occurs before the November deadline. At Standing Rock, nickname supporters circulate petitions seeking a tribal vote, but the Tribal Council refuses to receive them or consider scheduling an election. Nickname supporters circulate their own petitions, but the council declines to receive either set and instead votes 10-4 to reaffirm its opposition. Kelley appoints committees to work out the transition. At the end of the year, one panel recommends discontinuing most nonathletic uses of the logo.

2011: As the North Dakota Legislature convenes, House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, announces he will introduce a bill to require UND to keep the name and logo. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem warns that such a bill could face a constitutional hurdle, given the board's constitutional authority over state colleges and universities. After emotional hearings and heavy email campaigns, first the House, then the Senate, pass the bill and Gov. Jack Dalrymple signs it into law. State officials, hoping the new law persuades the NCAA to relent on the nickname, seek to arrange a meeting. A first scheduled meeting, in April in Bismarck, is scrapped when NCAA leaders decline to come to North Dakota, possibly because the meeting likely would be open. In June, leaders of the Big Sky Conference warn that the continuing squabble over the nickname is a matter of concern regarding UND's pending membership. President Kelley says the new nickname law "puts us out on a cliff" and again seeks talks with the NCAA. In August, as several UND American Indian students file suit in federal court against the nickname, a state delegation led by the governor meets with NCAA leaders in Indianapolis, but the NCAA stands firm on its policy and UND's noncompliance. Gov. Dalrymple and the others leave the meeting persuaded that the law must be repealed, which happens on Nov. 9 during a special session. The repeal bill directs that UND not adopt a new nickname for three years. Nickname supporters at Spirit Lake announce a federal lawsuit against the NCAA and petition drives to "repeal the repeal" and initiate a measure to secure the nickname in the state Constitution. UND rebrands athletic platforms (Sioux Crew becomes NoDak Nation) and declares the transition away from the nickname substantially complete by Dec. 31.

2012: A judge rules that nickname petition circulators have no right to access the inside of the REA. But through a statewide campaign, nickname supporters collect about 3,000 signatures more than they need and file with the secretary of state before the Feb. 7 midnight deadline. UND hockey coach Dave Hakstol, long one of the strongest defenders of the name, warns that enshrining it in state law would create "insurmountable obstacles" for the school. The state board votes to seek an opinion by the state Supreme Court that the law mandating its continued use is unconstitutional. In response, law sponsor Carlson announces the Legislature will resist that effort. In April, the court declines to address the constitutional issue or direct the secretary of state to strike the nickname question from the June primary ballot. In early May, the Spirit Lake committee's lawsuit against the NCAA is dismissed in U.S. District Court. The committee announces it will appeal. About the same time, the UND Alumni Association announces it will take the lead in opposing efforts at the ballot box to retain the nickname. On June 12, voters by a 2-1 margin voted to let UND retire the name and logo. Supporters continue to collect signatures for another try at the polls, an initiated measure that would put the nickname in the state Constitution, but they do not file by the deadline. In August, U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson, saying the June vote "would appear to have finally ended" efforts to save the nickname, dismissed a lawsuit brought by several UND Indian students against the school and the state. Weeks later, the attorney representing the students said they would not appeal. In September, the NCAA relents on some changes that were required at REA in the 2007 settlement, but the large "Home of the Fighting Sioux" exterior signs were removed in late October.

2013: In February, nickname supporters at Spirit Lake, appealing dismissal of their federal lawsuit against the NCAA, make their case before the appeals court in St. Paul. In March, UND announces it will put up for bid one of the "Home of the Fighting Sioux" signs removed from the Ralph. Mike Dvorak, who farms near Pisek, N.D., makes the winning bid of $8,000 and says he'll put the sign up on or near his home. On May 29, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the district court decision dismissing the Spirit Lake lawsuit.

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