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Nickname defenders celebrate, eye next battle

"This is a good day," Jody Hodgson said Monday, shortly after the North Dakota House voted 65-28 to pass a bill that would direct UND to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

UND Fighting Sioux logo
UND Fighting Sioux logo

"This is a good day," Jody Hodgson said Monday, shortly after the North Dakota House voted 65-28 to pass a bill that would direct UND to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

"I'm very happy with what happened today," said Hodgson, general manager of Ralph Engelstad Arena, the privately-owned home of the Fighting Sioux hockey team. "I support the will of the people, which was expressed in the House today."

Hodgson testified when the House Education Committee held a hearing last month on three nickname bills, and he said he plans to testify when the House-approved bill goes before a Senate committee.

Leigh Jeanotte, director of American Indian Studies at UND, said he also will be there -- to make the case again for dropping the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

"I'll fight this as long as I'm at UND," he said. "It's got to go away."


He said the people of Standing Rock have expressed "often and clearly," through district votes on the reservation and repeated actions by the elected Tribal Council, their opposition to the university's use of the Sioux name and Indian head logos.

"What part of 'no' don't they understand?" he asked.

Jeanotte challenged nickname supporters' contention that tribal council votes aren't enough and the people of Standing Rock should vote on the nickname issue.

"If they're going to follow that rationale, our Legislature shouldn't be voting on this," he said. "It should be the people of the state."

UND remains in transition mode

Hodgson said nickname supporters realize that "we have a steep hill to climb in the Senate, but I'm optimistic we'll prevail there, too."

It's a complex issue, he said, "with lots of variables and varied opinions. There's been so much information on both sides of the issue, and that makes it difficult for those who haven't been involved in it as much as we have been."

Through a spokesman, UND President Robert Kelley said he respects the legislative process and will continue to follow what occurs there.


At the same time, UND will continue to follow the directive issued last April by the State Board of Higher Education and proceed with the transition, spokesman Peter Johnson said. Kelley has two "task groups" working on transition issues and a "transition cabinet" to advise him.

"The Aug. 15 deadline (when the transition is to be complete) is looming," Johnson said. "We want to make sure we're ready for that."

The cabinet, which includes students, American Indians, former athletes and alumni representatives as well as two former governors and a former U.S. senator, held its first meeting Friday.

Don Barcome Jr., an ardent supporter of the nickname, helped to promote a statewide e-mail campaign aimed at members of the House prior to Monday's vote.

Once the vote was in, he said, within minutes he received celebratory e-mails from Archie Fool Bear of Standing Rock and Eunice Davidson of Spirit Lake, leaders of the pro-nickname factions on their respective reservations.

Fool Bear told the Herald that the vote "was a good thing for the people of North Dakota, for UND, for race relations in this state and for all our native students who will attend UND.

"It shows a majority of the people of North Dakota don't have a problem with the name," he said. "The name does not create prejudice."

Fool Bear said he's confident the nickname bill will continue to advance.


"Now we have to prepare for the Senate," he said. "The 'anti' people will continue to be 'anti,' but the Legislature is more open-minded to the issues that are going on."

Barcome, too, said he's confident.

"I just smiled when I heard the vote," he said. "It was a very good feeling. I know it's not over, but I can't imagine the Senate not respecting what happened (Monday) in the House.

"This vote shows a groundswell across the state. If you had an open vote across the state, it wouldn't even be close."

Barcome said he has "no idea" what happens if the Senate goes along with the House and the bill is signed into law by Gov. Jack Dalrymple. Questions have been raised concerning the bill's constitutionality because it mandates certain actions by the state board, an independent constitutional body. It also states that the attorney general should consider suing the NCAA if the association tries to punish UND for retaining the nickname.

"I don't think anybody knows what happens next," Barcome said.

Despite the uncertainty, there was much celebrating Monday on Internet blogs and comment sites where the nickname issue has lived large in recent months.

"Hey PC crowd -- Do ya like apples? How'd ya like them apples?" one commenter chortled, borrowing a popular movie line (from the film "Good Will Hunting") to tweak noses of nickname opponents who are frequently dismissed as "politically correct."


Another commenter wrote, "It's refreshing to have the House of Reps stand up for the majority of N.D. citizens and for the Spirit Lake Nation. Thank you, legislators. Senate, now it's your turn. Sioux yeah yeah!!!"

But another said he agreed with comments made on the House floor Monday by Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, who voted against the nickname bill.

"I am a loyal Sioux supporter, but Glassheim is absolutely correct here," he wrote. "This battle has already been fought. If the legislature wants to be a part of the process, they should have been in the trenches when the NCAA lawsuit was going on when the rest of us were fighting to keep it. Bottom line, it's too little too late. Their current effort is wasted."

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

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