LegitSlater: No Name Is Best Way To "Move On"

The fight over the Fighting Sioux name and logo is one that has gone on for some time. As you may recall, it really began in earnest when the NCAA inserted itself into what was (and many still feel is) a North Dakota matter almost a decade ago, deeming the name Fighting Sioux and it’s logo “hostile and abusive”.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge on this issue since the NCAA policy was enacted in 2005. Lawsuits. Laws being passed, then repealed, followed by repeals of the repeals. Exaggerations of reality were spun to in essence bail the University of North Dakota and State Board of Higher Education out a politically uncomfortable position; much of which was due to their own actions. Overreactions to banners on a sorority house and at luxury box at the Frozen Four playoffs.

Above all, the very people whom were at the center of the debate — Sioux Indians who support the name and logo (which is most of them) — were ignored; by the NCAA, UND, and in the case of one tribe, their own council. The history on this issue is complicated, and is best documented in the book “Aren’t We Sioux Enough” by Sioux indian and nickname supporter Eunice Davidson.

The latest page in this book is currently being written by UND. Earlier this year, they created a Nickname and Logo Taskforce consisting of roughly 80 people to represent all who seemingly have a stake in the issue… except the Sioux indians who fought so hard to keep it of course. Those that are members of this taskforce are really stuck in the middle of a huge quandary.

Their job is to recommend a replacement name and logo for one that is irreplaceable. Many also feel their efforts are for show; that the decision has already been made on a replacement, and they are simply going through some motions to make it appear as if UND actually cared what anyone besides their own administration felt on the matter. And, it is quite clear the pressure is on to get through before the next legislative session begins in January.

This taskforce wrapped up their work last Friday evening, which is a pretty interesting time and day to hold such an important meeting. It’s almost as if they didn’t want the public to participate in their public meeting. Some “interesting” (putting it nicely) suggestions came out, including holding a funeral for the Fighting Sioux name and logo. Then there is this, which isn’t such a bad thing on the surface:

The nickname task force plans to use online surveys and live streamed town hall meetings to gather more information from stakeholders, but concrete dates have not been set. The information gathered at the forums will be used to compile the survey.

I am not sure town halls and surveys are going to impact much of anything in the end. Call me cynical or just experienced in watching how things have unfolded over the past several years on this issue, but I can’t help but think these activities are simply another act in a play UND is putting on to disguise the reality of their intentions. I actually feel bad for many of the taskforce members; many of whom I am sure felt that their input might matter.

But this taskforce has also served a purpose I am sure they never envisioned; started a significant sidebar conversation away from their conference table on the best way to heal without further harming, and finding a solution that most on both sides of this issue could live with.

That solution is simple– stay North Dakota. No new nickname needed.

This is not a new idea. Indeed it has been one floated by people who are both for and against the Fighting Sioux name before. But it is starting to crecendo more and more as this taskforce does their work, and UND’s self-imposed deadline of end of December looms.

Why is that? Well, perhaps because it just makes sense. What has been missing from this debate since inception has been a sincere attempt to find a win-win for all. In order to “move on” — to truly heal, that win-win has to be realized.

What is important to some is the Fighting Sioux name is not used by UND, and this would be achieved with no replacement. What is important to others is the proud name “Fighting Sioux”, and the 80 plus years of heritage that went with it, is not erased. This solution does that.

A few (including our lawmakers on the Appropriations Committees no doubt) are concerned with the expense UND will incur with changing their branding to a new name and logo. No new name completely addresses that concern.

Some want to make sure UND still has a name to be proud of. If we all (regardless of our feeling on the Fighting Sioux name) can’t be proud of the name of our own state, then no other name exists which we can be proud of.

If UND is serious about healing old wounds — about “moving on” — then they would be well advised to leave well enough alone. The controversy will always be there. Most people will still overwhelmingly support the Fighting Sioux name and logo (to include most Sioux indians, and those who still voted to let UND retire it in June of 2012). There are those who will always find it offensive. The efforts of any taskforce or university administration will never change these convictions.

Adopting a new name — one that can never replace the one UND had — will only serve to throw kerosene back on the fire again. The no name status we have been under since June of 2012 has brought with it a surprising yet refreshing sense of detente. North Dakota is a name that has served us well these past few years in absence of the Fighting Sioux, and it can continue to do so — much better than any name dreamed up by a taskforce or a university administration.

No new nickname is ultimately what is best for all involved in this debate, from all perspectives. Everyone has to give a little, but everyone also gets a win. When you find a win-win, you have the best chance of truly resolving conflict or at least allowing all sides to be able to coexist with some level of decorum. It is also the solution that makes the most sense. Lets hope that it isn’t doomed because of this.

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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