Fighting Sioux on Warpath Over Nickname

Valerie Richardson, Washington Times, January 17, 2011

When North Dakota’s state board of higher education voted to phase out the “Fighting Sioux” last year, that seemed to signal the end of the lengthy battle over the University of North Dakota’s nickname and logo.

Except that it didn’t. Two Fighting Sioux supporters have since launched Save Our Suhaki, a tongue-in-cheek campaign ostensibly aimed at preserving the suhaki, a Russian antelope whose name is pronounced exactly like “Sioux hockey.”

Lest anyone miss the parallel, an editor’s note on the website says, “Suhaki (soo-ha-kee) is often times mistaken for a legendary collegiate ice hockey team located in the Ralph Englestad Arena, Grand Forks, North Dakota, United States of America.”

Steve Ekman, an alumnus who organized the campaign along with fellow North Dakotan Hans Halvorson, called the campaign a “peaceful and poignant protest against the politically correct NCAA.”

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State lawmakers also have jumped into the fray by introducing three bills that would override the board’s vote and write the 80-year-old nickname and logo into state law. If that doesn’t work, House Majority Leader Al Carlson says he’s willing to consider adding the Fighting Sioux to the state constitution.

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Mr. Carlson’s bill would prevent the university and board from taking any action to remove the Fighting Sioux.

If the NCAA threatens to penalize the university over its use of the nickname, the state attorney general “shall consider filing a federal antitrust investigation against that association.”

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One potential hurdle: The state constitution already says that the board of education “shall have full authority over the institutions under its control.”

The debate over the Fighting Sioux has waged since the NCAA placed the nickname on a list of “hostile and abusive” Indian mascots in 2005. Schools were ordered to replace their mascots or receive permission from their namesake tribes to continue using them. Any university that refused would face sanctions.

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Miami University in Ohio will no longer allow its Indian-head logo to be used on merchandise sold on or off campus, university officials said Tuesday.

Miami has told merchandising companies the logo will no longer be available for reproduction after the current supply of merchandise is sold.

University trustees voted in 1996 to stop using the name Redskins as its athletic nickname, citing respect for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. The school adopted the current RedHawks nickname in 1997, but allowed limited use of a logo incorporating an Indian head and the beveled letter “M” on some apparel and in some athletic areas as a “heritage mark” related to the school’s history.

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“I understand why they’re doing it, but it’s part of the heritage of Miami. And by doing away with it, they’re losing history,” Miami sophomore Taylor Lewis said.

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Miami was named for the Miami Indians who once lived in what is now southwest Ohio. The university has said the tribe had asked the school to stop using the 66-year-old name over concerns that some people perceive it as a racial slur.

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