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RYAN BAKKEN: Forward with respect

A week ago, I received an email from a former Grand Forks resident who attended a recent UND vs. Nebraska-Omaha hockey game in Omaha. Here's what he wrote: "I can't get over how the UND fan base still calls the team the Sioux and still wears thei...

Ryan Bakken
Ryan Bakken

A week ago, I received an email from a former Grand Forks resident who attended a recent UND vs. Nebraska-Omaha hockey game in Omaha.

Here's what he wrote:

"I can't get over how the UND fan base still calls the team the Sioux and still wears their historic uniforms. It's time to grow up and move on. Having lived in North Dakota for a good part of my life, I understand the tradition. But times have changed."

Here's my email response to him:

"If it's any consolation to you, there are fewer 'Sioux' cheers and fewer fans participating in the cheers at the Ralph Engelstad Arena these days. At the rate the nickname use is disappearing, my guess is it will be considered bad manners to voice it in probably five years, maybe 10."

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What I should have added to my response was that those cheers don't appear to be defiant. They're spoken more out of tradition than rebellion. I can't speak for the UND fans in Omaha, but UND fans in the REA aren't angry or confrontational.

All things considered, I believe both sides have conducted themselves well since the nickname officially disappeared. Not perfect, but mostly respectful.

Nickname supporters haven't overdone it, opting for the civil disobedience approach, as opposed to uncivil behavior. And school officials have rolled with the punches by being understanding and flexible, although probably grinding their teeth in the process.

The response of REA fans seems to verify my earlier conclusion about the nickname controversy: It's more about the logo than the name.

I have two UND shirts that I wear -- a black polo with a Fighting Sioux logo and a green polo with the interlocking ND logo.

I'm not making a political statement when I wear either one. Both look sharp and reveal my college sports loyalty. Plus, I'm too cheap to toss either one.

In the meantime, UND needs to find an alternative to its public address announcement when its players are arriving on the playing surface: "Here comes your University of North Dakota!"

Have you ever heard anything so awkward? At the very least, English majors must be wincing.

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P.S.: Two days after my response to the former GF resident and now Omaha area resident, he returned a message, offering this: "I took my grandson to the game. His mother is one-half (Native American). Grandpas want to protect their grandchildren."

Yes, everyone wants to protect what's dear to them, whether it's a grandson, a nickname or a logo.

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send email to rbakken@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: UND SPORTS
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