For years UND President Robert Kelley has argued that what was prompting his move to get rid of the controversial “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo was the NCAA. To hear Kelley tell it, if it weren’t for the NCAA threatening sanctions against the university for using the logo/nickname, UND would have kept it.
Kelley has also emphasized the importance of Native American voices – particularly the voices of the Sioux people – in this process.
But Kelley’s critics have never bought that. They’ve always felt that he was double dealing, doing things in the background to hasten the exit of the nickname (like, say, urging the Summit League Athletic Conference to oppose the nickname), and pro-nickname Native American activists I’ve spoken to – particularly folks from the Spirit Lake reservation – say the only Native American voices Kelley cares about are those against the nickname.
An event last week at the United Tribes Technical College provides more evidence that Kelley has been something less than an honest broker about the nickname.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]The event “was not scheduled as a press or public event” wrote Neumann in an email in which he also forwarded pictures from the event requested by the reader…Why would they want to keep an event like this so quiet?[/mks_pullquote]
On a July 21 news broadcast long time anti-nickname activist Erich Longie said Native Americans were going to hold an event to honor Kelley for his efforts to be rid of the nickname. That caught my attention, for all the reasons I just mentioned, but I hadn’t heard anything else about the event.
A reader found out that an event to honor Kelley was held at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. It was sparsely attended according to another SAB reader who observed the event – estimated attendance was “about 20” – and according to an email from UTTC Public Information Director Dennis Neumann the event wasn’t open to the public or the media.
The event “was not scheduled as a press or public event” wrote Neumann in an email in which he also forwarded pictures from the event requested by the reader (see below).
Why would they want to keep an event like this so quiet?
My guess is that with tensions running high in the nickname debate once again – there will be some sort of a vote on what will permanently replace “Fighting Sioux” soon – the last thing Kelley wanted was for the truth about his position on this issue to be clear.
The debate over the “Fighting Sioux” is over. The nickname is no more. But it speaks volumes about Kelley’s integrity, and his handling of this seemingly never-ending controversy, that he would sneak off to a non-public event to be feted by anti-Fighting Sioux activists.