Friday, November 18, 2011
In Nickname Flap, Some Sioux Keep Fighting
The Sioux keep fighting for “Fighting Sioux.” Well, at least one Sioux tribe does, anyway.|
Despite North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple signing legislation Nov. 9 that overturned a short-lived law requiring the University of North Dakota to use “Fighting Sioux” as the nickname of its sports teams, the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe is pushing to put the issue to a public vote. This is the same tribe whose lawyer filed a federal lawsuit Nov. 1 against the NCAA, claiming the tribe’s rights were violated when it was not allowed a voice in the often-contentious, decades-old debate over the university’s American Indian imagery — in place for the past 81 years.
As reported by the Associated Press, attorney Reed Soderstrom said Thursday that the Spirit Lake tribe he represents wishes to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2012 ballot. If a majority of voters approves, the state constitution would be amended to mandate the state university’s use of “Fighting Sioux.” Supporters must gather at least 27,000 signatures before Aug. 8 to put the initiative on the ballot. Soderstrom believes a constitutional amendment would finally put the issue to rest. “It won’t be etched in stone,” he said, “but almost.”
In 2005, the NCAA placed UND on a list of schools that would face sanctions if it didn’t change a name the governing body deemed “offensive.” Since August, the NCAA has banned the university from hosting postseason play and its athletes from wearing Sioux regalia during postseason contests. The nickname has also served as a sticking point as North Dakota seeks membership in Division I’s Big Sky Conference.
The NCAA has allowed schools with American Indian monikers and mascots to continue their use, but only with tribal approval. The Florida State Seminoles represent perhaps the most oft-cited example. But while the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe fights on for the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, the Standing Rock Sioux’s tribal council still refuses to do so.