North Dakota School Divided Over ‘Fighting Sioux’ Nickname
GRAND FORKS, N.D.
The University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname is dividing the campus in a dispute involving
administrators, students, American
Indians and a major contributor for an $85 million hockey arena.
Opponents say the nickname demeans American Indians, and they contend it
undermines the university’s efforts to offer
educational programs for those students.
Supporters say the name is used respectfully and is a source of pride for alumni,
athletes and fans. The school’s hockey team won the Division I championship last year, and its women’s basketball team won three consecutive Division II titles, from 1997-99.
“The University of North Dakota has been the Sioux and the Fighting Sioux for 70 years,” says Earl Strinden, the retired head of the school’s alumni association. “This is strongly supported by the citizens of North Dakota.”
North Dakota is the latest of at least 20 colleges or universities to face opposition to Indian team names or mascots since the 1970s.
Oklahoma dropped a character named
Little Red, and Stanford abandoned the
Indians name. Marquette replaced Warriors in favor of the Golden Eagles, and Miami of Ohio’s fans now cheer for the RedHawks, not the Redskins. Florida State’s Seminoles nickname has the support of the tribe for which the team is named.
Tribal leaders of North Dakota’s Sioux — a name used to refer to Lakota, Nakota and Dakota tribes — have asked the school to drop the name.
Ralph Engelstad, a casino owner and alumnus, has already put $35 million into the arena that is named after him.
University President Charles Kupchella was preparing to decide the issue when
Engelstad wrote him in December, saying he was prepared to withhold financial
support of the arena. Members of the state Board of Higher Education were sent copies, and the board voted to keep the
nickname the next day.
Engelstad owns the Imperial Palace
casinos in Las Vegas and Biloxi, Miss., and was a North Dakota goalie in the 1950s.
When the board voted to keep the
nickname, it also adopted a new logo that was favored by Engelstad and many alumni. The logo, depicting an Indian with feathers and war paint, was painted by an American Indian artist.
Comprising more than 3 percent of the school’s 11,000 students, American Indians are the largest minority group on campus.
A university spokesman says that the
student body has taken nonbinding votes, most of which have supported retaining the nickname.
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