Order Bars Retiring Nickname Until After Hearing

Dale Wetzel, Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota), November 10, 2009

A judge is barring the state Board of Higher Education from doing away with the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname until after a Dec. 9 hearing.

Monday’s order from Judge Michael Sturdevant of Bottineau is in response to a lawsuit filed by nickname supporters from the Spirit Lake reservation.

The group says the board would be ignoring the rights of the Sioux people if it retires the nickname at its meeting next week.

As part of a legal settlement with the NCAA, the state board agreed to drop the nickname and Indian head logo unless it gets an agreement from the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes to keep using them.

[Editor’s Note: Other stories related to UND’s nickname are listed here.]


The president of North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education said Tuesday he will talk with the attorney general about challenging a judge’s order that temporarily prohibits changing the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname.

The edict issued Monday could delay UND’s efforts to join the Summit League in sports and re-establish its football rivalry with North Dakota State University, board President Richie Smith said.

“The problem is, there are some monetary implications here,” Smith said. “Every day that UND has to wait, it costs them money.”

Sports scheduling is usually done years in advance. The Summit League has not wanted to take on UND as a member until the dispute about its nickname, which the NCAA regards as hostile and abusive, is settled.

Northeast District Judge Michael Sturdevant issued a temporary restraining order Monday that bars the Board of Higher Education from changing the nickname. The board had been expected to discuss the issue at a Nov. 19 meeting at Minot State University.

Sturdevant’s ruling came after a lawsuit was filed last week by eight Spirit Lake Sioux tribal members who support the nickname. The judge scheduled a Dec. 9 hearing on it.

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The dispute has its origins in the NCAA’s August 2005 declaration that UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo are hostile to American Indians and should be abolished.

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In an October 2007 settlement, the board was given until Nov. 30, 2010, to gain support for the nickname and logo from the Standing Rock or Spirit Lake Sioux tribes. UND then has until Aug. 15, 2011, to find a new nickname and logo.

An April 2009 referendum on the Spirit Lake Sioux reservation showed overwhelming support for the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. The tribe’s governing council subsequently approved a resolution giving UND “perpetual” permission to use them.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribal council has opposed the nickname and logo, and no referendum has been scheduled. Its newly elected chairman, Charles Murphy, said in a letter to William Goetz, chancellor of the state university system, that the tribe was willing to discuss the issue “without deadlines or stipulations.”

The Board of Higher Education has demanded that the tribes give UND their permission to use the nickname and logo for at least 30 years. Tribal council resolutions of support are not enough, because a newly elected council could change them, board members say.

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