North Dakota legislature passes Fighting Sioux nickname bill

It appears North Dakota will be keeping its Fighting Sioux nickname after a vote last Friday in the state Senate.

The Senate voted to approve legislation ordering UND to retain its controversial Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian-head logo. The vote was 28-15 with four senators absent and not voting and came after a massive e-mail lobbying campaign that senators said heavily favored approval.

The bill, passed earlier by the House on a 65-28 vote, goes now to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who said he will sign it, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

“The ball is now in the court of the NCAA, and that’s what the people want: Take action or not take action,” Dalrymple said in a telephone interview with the paper following the vote.

Erich Longie, a Spirit Lake Sioux tribe member who has fought against the nickname and logo, said he was “very disappointed” in the Senate vote.

“I had hoped the Senate would put a stop to this racist practice, but instead they have decided to legalize this racism,” he said to the Herald. “No wonder some of my colleagues elsewhere are calling North Dakota ‘the Mississippi of the north.'”

In addition to writing the Fighting Sioux nickname into state law, the passing of the bill directs Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to consider filing a lawsuit against the NCAA if the athletics association threatens sanctions against UND, the paper added.

Stenehjem sued the NCAA on behalf of the State Board of Higher Education when the association said UND would lose the right to host post-season championships or participate in post-season play wearing Fighting Sioux insignia if it did not comply with an NCAA rule banning Indian-themed nicknames, logos and mascots.

In a 2007 settlement agreement, the NCAA gave UND and the higher education board three years to win authorization from the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes to continue using the name. Spirit Lake voters gave their consent, but Standing Rock did not.