‘Fighting Sioux’ Search for a New Mascot

     FARGO, N.D. (CN) – After 16 years of controversy, the University of North Dakota may be near to selecting a new mascot for its sports teams to replace the name the “Fighting Sioux.”
     Roughriders, Sundogs and North Stars appear to be the favorites today, but the race is too close to call.
     Students, faculty, athletes and the Sioux have been at odds on whether the Fighting Sioux name recognizes a proud culture, or is just another racist sports moniker.
     Public controversy began in 1999 when several tribes, UND faculty and student organizations led a campaign to change what they considered an offensive mascot.
     That same year the state House considered and rejected a bill to change the name, but the controversy continued.
     In 2001 alumnus Ralph Engelstad donated $100 million to build a new sports arena named after him. Nicknamed “The Ralph,” the stadium cost $104 million. Engelstad’s donation came with conditions, including that the Fighting Sioux would remain the logo and mascot.
     The controversy heated up in 2005 when the NCAA decided to sanction schools whose mascots featured Native American tribes. The NCAA said the names could be interpreted as “hostile or abusive,” but said schools could keep them if the tribe agreed to it.
     North Dakota’s Spirit Lake Tribe put the issue to a tribal vote, which favored the Fighting Sioux, and the tribe officially supported it.
     But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council insisted that the university stop using the name, though it never put the issue to a vote from tribal members.
     The NCAA granted UND a grace period to gain support from the state’s tribes.
     The United States today recognizes nine Sioux tribes. Anglo anthropologists identify three major linguistic tribal divisions, loosely classified in English as Yankton, Santee and Lakota.
     The university said in a newsletter that it received many signatures from Native Americans on a petition defending the mascot and logo, but it failed to gain all nine tribes’ support within the NCAA’s timeframe.
     So in autumn 2014 the “UND Nickname and Logo Process Recommendation Task Force” was created to find a new name and logo.
     “The University of North Dakota is not going to focus on the past. We are here today and we plan to move forward,” Executive Associate Vice President for University Relations Peter Johnson told Courthouse News.
     The university said on its website that it hoped the task force would choose a name by January this year, but that has not happened.
     According to the Grand Forks Herald, names still in the running include Fighting Hawks, Green Hawks, Nodaks, North Stars, Roughriders and Sundogs. A seventh option is to continue with the current team name, simply UND/North Dakota.
     The seven names came from a pool of 1,172 acceptable options submitted to the university from the public.
     Under a points system, the Sundogs and North Stars are tied for second place, just short of the Roughriders.
     But the Roughriders hold the lead by just two points, making the selection process a tight race with no predictable outcome.
     Eventually, the names will be put to a public vote. The process is expected to be concluded by this fall – in time for hockey season.
     The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council did not respond to a request for comment.

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