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Spirit Lake may hold referendum on UND nickname

The Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation likely will hold a referendum vote on whether or not to allow the University of North Dakota to continue using the Fighting Sioux nickname, a member of the tribal council said today.

The Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation likely will hold a referendum vote on whether or not to allow the University of North Dakota to continue using the Fighting Sioux nickname, a member of the tribal council said today.

According to the terms of a legal settlement with the NCAA, UND must retire that nickname and its Indian head logo within three years if it cannot win the support of both the state's Sioux tribes.

At a general assembly meeting of tribal members Thursday, several people suggested the nickname authorization question should be decided by a referendum vote, and tribal chairwoman Myra Pearson said she would support such a vote, said Lois Leben, a member of the tribal council.

Pearson has said several times that she personally opposes the nickname.

Leben said today she supports the nickname's use.

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Leaders at Standing Rock North Dakota's other Sioux reservation have been more firm in their opposition to the nickname. Tribal Chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder spoke out strongly against the nickname during a November visit to UND, and the tribal council later passed a resolution reaffirming its earlier opposition.

Spirit Lake's current resolution regarding the nickname states the tribe does not oppose the nickname providing "something positive" comes from the controversy surrounding it.

Pearson has said she reads that resolution as neither supporting nor opposing the nickname, and the NCAA deemed the resolution insufficient to grant UND a tribal exception to its policy banning all American Indian nicknames and other imagery.

Leben said she does not know when the referendum vote will be held.

Marks reports on higher education. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or jmarks@gfherald.com .

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