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Strong Sioux support

More than 400 people walked along University Avenue through the UND campus Friday night to show support for the Fighting Sioux nickname and hope that it won't be taken away.

Nickname support
Archie Fool Bear (center) leads the Sioux nickname support walk Friday night out of University Park in Grand Forks. More than 400 turned out for the walk from the park through campus along University Avenue. Herald photo by John Stennes.

More than 400 people walked along University Avenue through the UND campus Friday night to show support for the Fighting Sioux nickname and hope that it won't be taken away.

Dressed in Fighting Sioux jerseys, carrying flags with the logo and chanting "Let's go Sioux," the crowd stretched for more than a block as they made their way from University Park to the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

It was an event Danielle Sime thought up right after a State Board of Higher Education decision April 8 that directed the university to retire the nickname, a symbol of UND athletic teams for almost 80 years.

Sime used Facebook to invite some people to get together and walk through campus to show their support for the Fighting Sioux name, but she said she was "very nervous" before the event started.

"I never anticipated it to get this big," she said. "It shows overwhelming support, and it shows the name and logo is what this community is all about."

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Sime has been a Fighting Sioux fan since she moved to Grand Forks as a fourth-grader, she said, and she doesn't want to see the name she loves get taken away.

"My hope is the State Board of Higher Education is going to see the actual support of the community for the name," she said.

'Pushing forward'

Archie Fool Bear, a Standing Rock Sioux Tribe member, told the crowd before they started walking that his tribe "has been thrown into this battle." He said the board's decision "cut their feet out from under them."

The terms of a 2007 lawsuit settlement between the state of North Dakota and the NCAA said the state's two Sioux tribes had to give approval for the nickname by Nov. 30, 2010. Spirit Lake voters did that last April, but Standing Rock officials haven't held a vote on the matter.

"Standing Rock does need to have their vote, don't you think?" he asked, which drew cheers from the crowd.

Fool Bear said he hoped people would contact Gov. John Hoeven and urge him to get involved in the matter. Earlier this week, members of the Spirit Lake tribe sent Hoeven a letter urging that him to "correct this wrong."

"We're not going to quit," Fool Bear said. "So, we got together, we looked at our options, and one option is to keep pushing forward. The Fighting Sioux name is not going to go away."

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Much of his conversation focused on Standing Rock tribal leaders not allowing a full vote for members to give approval to the nickname.

"The people are tired of having a moratorium hanging over their head for the last two years," Fool Bear said.

'Strong community'

Grand Forks City Council member Mike McNamara told the crowd he wanted to be there because the UND campus is in his ward. But, more than anything else, he was there "as a veteran" of the U.S. Marine Corps, he said.

He had a duty to defend the country if ordered to do so by the president, McNamara said, and "the governor has a duty to the people of this state and the people of Standing Rock to have their say."

Jody Hodgson, general manager of Ralph Engelstad Arena, walked with the crowd and told the Herald he was there to show support for tribal members "that have put themselves out front on this issue." He said he still thinks there are ways to keep the nickname.

"I think there's a lot of the story left to be told," he said.

Most people in the crowd said they regretted that the board's decision and wondered why it had to be done.

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"I wish it would have gone through the process it was intended to go through," said Tom Scherer, a lifelong Grand Forks resident and Fighting Sioux fan.

"I guess I kind of saw this coming, but I thought they'd let Standing Rock go through their vote," Scherer said.

Kristin Swatlowski said being a Sioux fan "runs in our family," so she volunteered to sing the national anthem before the walk began. She said she was impressed with the big turnout, adding it shows how much support people have for the nickname.

"We may not be that big of a town ... but we are a strong community," she said.

UND alumna Dana Boucher said she joined the walk to support the nickname.

"It's a long tradition," she said. "I think it shows honor and respect, and I don't want it to go away."

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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