Some Spirit Lake tribal members who are University of North Dakota graduates want to make their case for getting rid of UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname before any tribal vote is held.
A letter signed by 11 people asks the tribal council not to put the nickname issue to a vote before “you at least listen to what we tribal members, who have attended UND and who have experienced the negativism spawned by the logo, have to say as opposed to those who support the logo yet have never put one foot on the UND campus.”
Spirit Lake Tribal Chairwoman Myra Pearson said earlier that the tribe likely will put the nickname to a vote, though she did not know when.
Eric Longie, one of the signers of the letter who has three degrees from UND, said the idea of tribal support for the nickname is “unimaginable.”
Cynthia Lindquist Mala, the current president of Cankdeska Cikana tribal college, also signed the letter.
“I want to make sure people are informed, that they understand why this is an issue for us,” she said. “My perspective stems from being a North Dakota native, living in both (American Indian and White) worlds, and my six years as North Dakota Indian Affairs commissioner (from 1998 to 2004), and seeing and addressing racism in this state.”
Mala said she is frustrated that the nickname issue is still being debated.
“They’ve turned it so it’s about Spirit Lake and Standing Rock and it’s our fault and our issue,” she said. “UND is the state’s premier learning institution and it should be held to a higher standard.”
Under a settlement with the NCAA announced last fall, UND has three years to persuade the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake tribes to allow the school to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. Should either tribe decline to give its consent, UND either will drop the logo and nickname or face NCAA penalties that include denial of the right to host any postseason sports tournaments.
The Spirit Lake reservation, about 90 miles from Grand Forks in northeastern North Dakota, is the closest reservation to UND.
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