William Brotherton: Give The "Fighting Sioux" Nickname Back To The Tribes

fighting sioux

So the University of North Dakota, my beloved alma mater, has bungled its nickname renaming process even more!

It didn’t even bother to check on whether or not there was anyone else in the state using the Hawk name. It turns out that just down the road, Dickinson State University has been using the Blue Hawk name. And, apparently they have some reservations about UND using a name that they already had.

You may recall that I was lead counsel in the lawsuit filed against the University of North Dakota to stop the nickname vote, and that after suit was filed, all seven judges in Grand Forks County recused themselves. We then had to go to the North Dakota Supreme Court, who assigned a Fargo judge to hear the lawsuit.

In our hearing where we requested a temporary restraining order, the Attorney General’s office, representing the University, argued that the whole process of replacing the Fighting Sioux name was just a “feeling out process”. On the basis of that argument, the court denied our request for a temporary restraining order.

But apparently UND forgot to feel out Dickinson State. Sure enough, if you go to the Dickinson State website, they proudly proclaim it to be home of the Blue Hawks. Although I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blue hawk; nonetheless, Dickinson State maintains that they exist and that they have them. And, it appears undisputed that Dickinson State had the Hawk name well before Robert Kelley’s quest for a new nickname.

And what exactly is a Fighting Hawk? We have red tailed hawks here in Texas, just like in North Dakota, and the only creatures I see hawks do battle with are crows and the occasional sparrow. This is certainly not the stuff of legend.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]We have become the laughingstock of the political correctness parade, and we have joined such vaunted institutions as Princeton and the University of Missouri. Princeton is going to remove the portrait of former United States president Woodrow Wilson for racism and appears hell-bent to purge any memory of Mr. Wilson. The University of Missouri president resigned when he wouldn’t renounce white privilege. Where does all this silliness end?[/mks_pullquote]

I argued in an earlier op-ed that it was not too late for UND to do the right thing. It’s still not. Now that Governor Ed Schafer is going to be stepping in as the new interim president of UND, outgoing president Robert Kelley should suspend the nickname replacement process and keep UND/North Dakota as the nickname of our proud university. Why would he want his successor to inherit an even bigger mess?

We find ourselves at this juncture point in history because the National Collegiate Athletic Association, better known as the NCAA, wanted to force political correctness down our throats. By God, even if we liked our Native American nickname, we were going to have to give it up, decreed the NCAA. Well guess what NCAA – not everyone dislikes Native American nicknames, as illustrated by the Seminoles of Florida State!

We have become the laughingstock of the political correctness parade, and we have joined such vaunted institutions as Princeton and the University of Missouri. Princeton is going to remove the portrait of former United States president Woodrow Wilson for racism and appears hell-bent to purge any memory of Mr. Wilson. The University of Missouri president resigned when he wouldn’t renounce white privilege. Where does all this silliness end?

Is there such a thing as a politically correct nickname these days? I would think that the University of Oklahoma will soon have to replace its vaunted Sooner nickname. After all, Sooners are the white settlers that raced across the state in the great Oklahoma Land Rush. And guess whose land they took?

Let’s stand up and do the right thing UND. Halt the nickname replacement process, throw out the Fighting Hawks nickname and keep the UND/North Dakota name for now, and let’s have a new vote to include that name as one of the selections. And let’s include the Sioux in any future votes, because as I’ve stated earlier and as described in our lawsuit against the University, both North Dakota Sioux tribes gave the Fighting Sioux name to UND in a sacred pipe ceremony held in 1969.

UND acknowledged that the Sioux gave the Fighting Sioux name to the University in its own lawsuit against the NCAA. But UND gave up that battle because it erroneously argued that only the Spirit Lake Tribe had presented the University with the Fighting Sioux name. In fact, it was both tribes, a fact attested to by plaintiff Lavonne Alberts, a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux, who was present with her grandmother at the 1969 sacred pipe ceremony, and saw elders from both tribes at this very special gifting.

I’ve argued that UND should relinquish the Fighting Sioux name and logo back to the tribes for their benefit, especially in light of the fact that UND intends to squander the value of the Fighting Sioux name. UND also specifically acknowledged the value of the Fighting Sioux name in its NCAA lawsuit.

And one more thought. As beloved comedian Mel Brooks once said, “It’s all about the merchandising”. With the Fighting Hawks name in jeopardy, are Scheels and other retailers really going to stock their shelves with merchandise emblazoned with the new nickname? It’s hard to imagine that sales are going to be robust when, in the latest Grand Forks Herald poll, most folks hate the new nickname or are at best, indifferent.

Let’s also not forget that UND is suffering a $5 million budget shortfall. I would hope that the University is not banking on future sales of Fighting Hawks merchandise to rescue it from its financial crisis.

I would again urge the University to do the right thing and halt the nickname replacement process, throw out the new nickname, keep UND/North Dakota as the nickname in the interim, include the Sioux in any future voting process, and relinquish the Fighting Sioux name and logo to the tribes.

It’s time for UND to end this debacle and to act like the flagship university that it is.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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