Pro-nickname group's biggest financial supporter is 1959 UND alum
Growing up in Mandan, N.D., and later attending UND, Norman Hoffman was always a fan of the Fighting Sioux -- the teams, the name, the logo. At 79, a retired engineer and defense contractor living in Waconia, Minn., he still is a fan. "It's a her...
Growing up in Mandan, N.D., and later attending UND, Norman Hoffman was always a fan of the Fighting Sioux -- the teams, the name, the logo.
At 79, a retired engineer and defense contractor living in Waconia, Minn., he still is a fan.
"It's a heritage we have in North Dakota. NDU is home to the Sioux," he said, using an acronym for the university common years ago.
Hoffman, a 1959 chemical engineering graduate of UND, is the largest contributor to the campaign to put the Fighting Sioux name on the state's primary election ballot in June, giving $10,000, according to financial disclosure reports released this week by the secretary of state's office.
The only other contributor listed for the pro-nickname Committee for Understanding and Respect was Reed Soderstrom, a Minot attorney and UND Law School graduate who has led the committee's petition drive to get the name on the June ballot. Soderstrom, who filed the report with the state, gave $500.
The report also lists expenditures through the end of 2011. The only expenditures listed were $7,500 to Charles Tuttle of Minot and $500 to Steve McWilliams of Minot.
The committee, acting on behalf of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe, filed petitions bearing more than 17,000 signatures with the secretary of state last week seeking a vote during the June 12 primary election on legislative action concerning the nickname in November.
The Legislature had adopted a law in April requiring UND to retain the Fighting Sioux name and logo, but that act was repealed during a special session in November. The filing of the petitions last week suspended the repeal and reinstated the law -- and the nickname -- until voters can have their say.
However, the State Board of Higher Education on Monday asked Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to seek an injunction and challenge the nickname law's constitutionality at the state Supreme Court. Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, the House majority leader and author of the nickname law, vowed Tuesday to resist that.
Hoffman has been a frequent contributor to UND. With his wife, he established the Ann and Norm Hoffman chair in defense energetic at the university in 2008.
"Norm's a good guy, he's a friend of the university, and everyone has a right both to their opinion and to spend their money as they see fit," said Tim O'Keefe, president and CEO of the UND Alumni Association and UND Foundation. "He's spent very generously on UND."
"I've done very well," Hoffman said. "After I got my degree, I ended up with my own company.
"I was proud to go to the University of North Dakota, the home of the Fighting Sioux. Absolutely, there was respect for the name."
He said the Sioux people of North Dakota "should be proud to have a university named after them."
He said he has tried to follow the ongoing debate over the nickname, and he was cheered by the petition drive to save it.
"Unfortunately, I couldn't sign the petition because I don't live now in North Dakota," he said.
Like many nickname supporters, he said he doesn't believe the NCAA "has the power or right to do what they've done" in adopting a policy against use of American Indian imagery and imposing sanctions against UND for not complying.
"I was born and raised in Mandan," he said. "I grew up with Indians and worked with Indians. They had respect for us, and we respected them."
He said there was a tradition in those days of American Indians holding dances in Mandan, "and that was a big thing. It's part of our heritage."
Forum Communications Co. reporter Teri Finneman contributed to this article.
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