North Dakota must get tribes' approval to keep Fighting Sioux name

Updated: October 17, 2008, 1:24 AM ET
Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota's Board of Higher Education has approved a schedule for discarding the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo if two prominent Sioux tribes hold firm in their desire to dump them.

The timeline directs William Goetz, the chancellor of the university system, to form a committee within the next two months to discuss the issue with leaders of the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes.

The panel should meet at least twice with Sioux leaders during 2009, the timeline says. If there is no agreement to allow continued use of the name and logo, it says, UND should begin planning in January 2010 to retire them.

Tribal leaders have said they want the university to drop its nickname and logo. If their stand changes, negotiations between UND and tribal leaders may continue until Nov. 30, 2010, according to the timeline.

The document says the chancellor's discussion committee also should continue its work until November 2010, even if UND is planning at the same time to retire the nickname and logo.

Board members voted 8-0 during a conference call Thursday to approve the document. Its goals may be changed if a majority of board members agree to do so, board president Richie Smith said.

Goetz said the discussion committee should have six months instead of two years to arrange meetings with tribal leaders. The shorter time would help "get this issue behind us," he said.

"What's behind that is ... my ongoing concern about the university, the challenges that it is facing with a decision that continues to be undecided [and] lacks direction," Goetz added. "I am particularly sensitive to the environment [at UND], the polarization."

UND's new hockey and basketball arena was built by alumnus Ralph Engelstad, a fervent supporter of the nickname and logo. The arena's floors, seats and walls have thousands of reproductions of the Indian head logo, and its exterior proclaims it as the "Home of the Fighting Sioux."

Unless the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes endorse UND's retention of the nickname and logo by Nov. 30, 2010, the NCAA will ban the university's athletics teams from using them during postseason play. UND also would be barred from holding NCAA tournaments.

The deadline was part of a settlement of a UND lawsuit against the NCAA, which challenged the process the association used to determine that UND should be penalized. The NCAA believes the nickname and logo promote racial divisiveness, a conclusion university supporters dispute.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press