Spirit Lake Tribal Council approves “perpetual” use of the Fighting Sioux name for UND

From the Grand Forks Herald:

Tribal Council approves ‘perpetual’ use of Fighting Sioux nickname

By Tu-Uyen Tran

Grand Forks Herald
Updated: 09/19/2009 12:26:18 PM CDT

The Spirit Lake Tribal Council issued a new resolution Friday that gives the University of North Dakota the “perpetual” use of the Fighting Sioux nickname, nickname supporters from the reservation said.

In a statement, Eunice Davidson, a pro-nickname activist, said she felt that a previous resolution of support had been misconstrued by nickname opponents. The new resolution would leave no doubt where the Tribal Council stood, she said.

Nickname opponents had said the earlier resolution merely said there was an election and a majority of tribal members supported the nickname — 67 percent voted “yes” in April — but did not state that the council was also behind the nickname.

The new resolution left little room for doubt. A key provision says: “The Tribal Council hereby amends tribal resolution No. A05-09-186 and affirmatively approves and supports UND’s use of the current nickname and related imagery, and hereby confirms Spirit Lake Tribe’s full permission for UND to continue using the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo and the duration of this authorization shall be perpetual commencing Oct. 1, 2009.”

The council also added this: “UND is entrusted with the responsibility of working cooperatively with the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe to increase the number of Native American graduates from Spirit Lake and to create a Native American program on UND campus which will bring about an air of respect and understanding amongst all students, faculty and staff at UND.”

Before the new resolution, Spirit Lake nickname opponents had hoped they would be able to get the council to reverse its support.

One of them, Terry Morgan, said Thursday that opponents would meet this weekend and mobilize for a meeting with the council next week.

But Friday night, on hearing news of the new resolution, Erich Longie, another nickname opponent, said, “Maybe this is a sign they’re saying they don’t want to meet with us.”

He rested his hopes on future councils, he said. The resolution might say “perpetual,” but he said resolutions aren’t perpetual, meaning future councils could issue new resolutions opposing the nickname.

Nickname opponents will never quit, he said, and will work toward another referendum to get voters to oppose the nickname. If that one doesn’t succeed, he said, opponents would put out another referendum. “We will not quit until we get the results we want.”

Davidson was not available Friday. Her statement was issued through Ralph Engelstad Arena, which also supports the nickname.

Under the settlement between the state and the NCAA, which considers American Indian nicknames to be “hostile and abusive,” UND has to win approval from the state’s two Sioux tribes. It has until February to do that, but the State Board of Higher Education had moved the deadline up to Oct. 1.

The board also required a 30-year agreement allowing use of the nickname from both tribes.

Board member Grant Shaft, who effectively has the nickname portfolio, said a binding agreement between the state and the tribes is what the board wants. This is necessary because resolutions can be undone by future councils, which would force UND to go through the same struggle it’s going through now, he said.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, whose interpretation Shaft said the board would defer to, has said he believes a resolution giving authorization for a certain period of time is sufficient to satisfy the NCAA settlement.

Standing Rock nickname supporters are working on a petition to get the council there to issue a referendum on the nickname, but they will not be ready by the Oct. 1 deadline.

They asked the state board to extend the deadline Thursday, but the board did not comment one way or the other.

Reach Tran at 701-780-1248; 800-477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to ttran(at)gfherald.com.

To see more of the Grand Forks Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.grandforks.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, Grand Forks Herald, N.D.

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