OUR OPINION: Vote stamps 'Answered' on nickname questions
Where the Fighting Sioux nickname is concerned, how would Sioux County, N.D., vote? Lots of people asked that question in the months leading up to last week's statewide referendum. After all, Sioux County is home to the North Dakota side of the S...
Where the Fighting Sioux nickname is concerned, how would Sioux County, N.D., vote?
Lots of people asked that question in the months leading up to last week's statewide referendum.
After all, Sioux County is home to the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. So, the county's vote on the referendum would be telling, given the tribal council's steadfast refusal to hold a reservation-only vote
As it turned out, the county's vote was telling.
Sioux County elected to let UND retire the nickname, 184-159.
Count that as one more in a list of key questions that the referendum answered. And all of the answers point to the same conclusion: Any further effort to force UND to use the Fighting Sioux nickname almost certainly will fail.
Clearly, that's the ultimate answer from last week's vote.
Nickname supporters who want to make UND keep the name say they want another chance. They say they'll "continue to circulate petitions for another vote, an initiated measure that would secure the nickname in the state constitution," Herald staff writer Chuck Haga reported Thursday.
Those supporters absolutely are entitled to pursue their goal. But last week's results suggest there's very little chance they'll succeed.
Remember, the Sioux County question wasn't the only one North Dakotans had been asking. No one knew for sure how the state as a whole would vote; indeed, that was the referendum's point.
After all, North Dakotans had voiced their opinions through polls and legislative votes, but never in a referendum.
And the "force UND" side obviously thought they had majority support, or they never would have pursued the statewide vote.
The referendum, in short, was an effort to answer vital nickname questions once and for all. Like the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe's referendum on the nickname in 2009, it was meant to cut through interest-group pressures and political correctness, the forces that so often sway elected officials' votes.
It was meant to let voters answer the questions in the sanctity of their hearts and the privacy of the voting booth.
And answer them, the voters did:
A decisive majority -- 67 percent -- voted to let UND retire the name.
A majority in every county agreed. And in the lone county that voted to force UND to keep the name, the victory margin was only two votes.
Those results cannot be explained away. They result from the issue at last being presented to voters -- not to a faculty senate, not to activist groups and not to lawmakers, but to voters.
That's what the referendum organizers were seeking. That's what they got, and that's what makes last week's vote the most meaningful of all.
The vote didn't clear up all of the lingering questions. But it answered with finality the most important of them: When forced to choose between a beloved symbol and the health of their university, how would North Dakotans vote?
Now we know: They'll support their university.
The questioning is over; the supermajority has spoken. And the answers seem unlikely to change.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald