Rep. Scott Louser: Give The Fighting Sioux Back To The Sioux

I have watched with great interest the scenario as it has played out with regards to the administration and nickname decision at UND.  As most know, the legislature passed a three year moratorium on a new nickname and logo, which expired January 1, 2015.  Essentially, UND has not had a nickname for three years plus the current eight months after the moratorium expired.  Now comes word that President Kelley has made the controversial decision to eliminate “North Dakota” from consideration for a new nickname.

Dr Kelley has announced he will be retiring next winter, in the middle of the school year.  That decision certainly sends a message to students regarding honoring commitments but that’s a discussion for another day.  It seems the process of a new logo and nickname may drag beyond this calendar year and into the next.  One thing seems clear today:  the Fighting Sioux logo and nickname will be replaced.  The question then must be asked, why protect the trademark?  Perhaps control of the trademark should be given to a newly created trustee that has the best interest of those impacted at heart.  If operating under the guise of being sensitive to a culture, do the right thing and release control.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Dr Kelley has announced he will be retiring next winter, in the middle of the school year.  That decision certainly sends a message to students regarding honoring commitments but that’s a discussion for another day[/mks_pullquote]

One person, someone publicly announced to be leaving shortly, should not have all the decision making power for a university under this scenario.  Proclaiming to be a champion of a culture is one thing, acting on it is strictly another.

Relinquishing control of the trademark could…and I stress could…have a hugely positive effect.  Trustees could return to discussions with the university under a different pretense.  If they were so inclined, they could negotiate terms of use such as scholarships for tribal members, cultural class offerings, formal recognition at sanctioned events, Native American events held on campus, removing the term “Fighting” from the nickname and / or probably most importantly, royalties paid on merchandise sold. Those royalties could be used for the betterment of tribal members directly.  It could be a win-win-win for all involved.  Even the NCAA would seemingly have to be agreeable to such a scenario.  That solution of course, would make most sense if UND continues as “North Dakota” and does not implement a new nickname and logo.

I recognize an objection to this proposal could be made based on language that may be included in the settlement agreement.  I understand the NCAA would want to restrict the opportunity for some enterprising person or group from benefiting from the sale of merchandise no longer licensed.  Someone would be hard pressed to convince me that the very people the NCAA claims to want to protect are the ones that should not benefit from some version of this proposal.

Ultimately, it would be the trustees decision to proceed or not proceed to negotiate as I do not presume to know what tribal leadership would wish to do with that opportunity.

While this proposal may not be perfect, it sure seems superior to the mess being made now.  Perhaps the State Board of Higher Ed will once again weigh in on this issue.  Mistakes have been in this process and hopefully lessons have been learned.   There is time to make this transition and the question remains, will Dr Kelley recognize this solution as a viable option or is best to simply table all activity until a new president is in place at UND?

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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