Nickname issue to be topic at State Board meeting here

Mike Bellmore, Features Editor

There is good news filtering out of Standing Rock Indian Reservation this week for those who favor UND retaining its “Fighting Sioux” nickname.

Supporters of the nickname there will be starting a petition drive to get the issue on the ballot.

Spirit Lake Tribal members voted overwhelming last year in favor of standing behind the name, but Standing Rock had been balking.

The Standing Rock group is said to be looking for at least 600 signatures by next Wednesday.

And Chairman Charlie Murphy, according to Tom Iron, one of the supporters, has promised to cooperate.

Eunice Davidson, one of the most vocal supporters of the nickname on the Spirit Lake Reservation, was surprised – and happy to hear of the Standing Rock move Wednesday.

“I hadn't heard that, but it's definitely good news if they let the people have a vote on it,” Davidson said.

“I'm excited for them. Hopefully, not all hope is lost.”

The apparent lack of progress on a petition in previous weeks and months had convinced many State Board of Higher Education members that it was time to retire the nickname and move on.

The NCAA considers American Indian nicknames offensive had reached a settlement with the state for a Nov. 30 deadline to win the support of both Sioux Tribes or abandon the name.

“For the most part, we've tried to stay out of the Standing Rock issues, but we encouraged them when possible,” added Davidson.

“But this is definitely a good sign.”

Davidson added that nearly 70 percent of the Spirit Lake Reservation voted to support the nickname, and she's hoping Standing Rock can garner similar support.

“We think it's an honor to be associated with something like that,” Davidson added.

“And I have many relatives on our reservation who feel the same way. I just don't understand what the problem is.”

In previous weeks and months, the Standing Rock Tribal Council had refused to allow a referendum on the issue.

Standing Rock apparently has new council members, and supporters are hoping that could help sway the feelings.

Meanwhile, UND is exploring an application to the Summit League, which has said it won't consider the application until the nickname issue is resolved.

The state board is scheduled to meet next week, and members have indicated they might decide to retire the name then to aid in the quest for league membership.

A lawsuit seeking to stop the board from doing that is schedule to be heard in the Supreme Court in March.

That meeting is scheduled to be held at Lake Region State College.