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Tribal resolution on UND nickname also takes aim at REA

A resolution passed by the Standing Rock Tribal Council took aim at Ralph Engelstad Arena and other off-reservation groups that have been "disruptive and divisive" influences on discussions about UND's Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

A resolution passed by the Standing Rock Tribal Council took aim at Ralph Engelstad Arena and other off-reservation groups that have been "disruptive and divisive" influences on discussions about UND's Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

Jesse Taken Alive, the council member who made a motion for Thursday's resolution, told the Herald on Friday that statement was included in the resolution because it puts everyone "on notice" that the nickname issue has been settled at Standing Rock.

But REA General Manager Jody Hodgson said the statement shows tribal officials are "frustrated by people who try and tell the truth" about the nickname issue.

Taken Alive made a motion Thursday for a vote on the resolution, which says that it shall be the final decision of the tribe that the nickname and logo are retired and no further discussion is necessary on the matter. That resolution was passed by the council 10-4.

It's a decision that could remove the final obstacle to the retirement of the Fighting Sioux name.

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'False information'

Thursday's 1ยฝ-page resolution included, among other things, a statement that the tribe "recognizes that off-reservation influences, including the Ralph Engelstad Arena, have proven to be disruptive and divisive to our people, are not necessary and will not be tolerated within our homelands."

Taken Alive said it was included because tribal officials learned about a year ago that a nontribal member paid by REA was holding invitation-only meetings on the reservation.

"If it involves the majority of our people, which this does, we didn't think that was appropriate to have those kinds of meetings," he said.

The resolution's language, Hodgson said, shows the tribal council is "frustrated by people who try and tell the truth." He said anti-nickname people have spread "false information" about the issues -- including the idea that UND is an "unsafe" and "terrible" place for American Indians because of its "racist environment."

"They've scared the citizenry who haven't had an opportunity to visit Grand Forks or visit the University of North Dakota," Hodgson said. "That's the campaign they've created. That's the perception they've created."

When asked about American Indian students at UND who have said the nickname has caused issues for them on campus, he said there are people "on both sides" of the issue.

"Those are their experiences and their perceptions," Hodgson added.

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The REA remains "strongly supportive" of the nickname and logo and "committed" to seeing the process through, he said.

Taken Alive wouldn't tell the Herald the name of the REA-funded influencer. He said he heard the allegation from "someone that I can trust" and that the man admitted his role at a public meeting, as well.

"He told the participants or members at that meeting that he was indeed being paid by the Ralph Engelstad Arena," Taken Alive said. "He actually called me a couple of years ago or so and wanted me to consider joining folks who are wanting to see the name stay. I told him that's not suitable."

"Their influences are divisive because the issue's not a UND issue anymore because of the transition process we're in," Taken Alive added.

Hodgson said he wasn't sure who Taken Alive was referring to. But if he meant Sam Dupris, he said, "that's been much discussed publicly" for years.

Dupris served as a "liaison" to work with the arena and "provide a bridge to our community," Hodgson said, adding Dupris also tried to improve communication with the reservation.

"Of course he was actively supporting our efforts to try to retain the name and logo as we were," Hodgson said. "Why wouldn't he?"

Dupris worked for and represented the REA, meaning he was paid by the arena for his work.

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"The Ralph Engelstad Arena has a legitimate financial interest and a legitimate charitable interest in the outcome of the name and logo," Hodgson said. "I won't ever apologize to anybody for the actions we've taken for the name and logo, never."

Taken Alive said the tribal council is preparing a "follow-up activity" related to this part of the resolution.

"It puts everyone else on notice that this issue's been decided by tribal governmental action," he said. "We need to focus on other things."

The State Board of Higher Education directed President Robert Kelley in April to officially retire the nickname and logo. But members said they might revisit the issue if a Standing Rock vote supported continued use of the name.

Under the terms of a lawsuit settlement with the NCAA, UND has until Nov. 30 to win approval from the state's two namesake tribes to continue using the name. Spirit Lake voters approved keeping the nickname and logo in a two-thirds majority vote last year.

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

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