Chancellor forming group to discuss Fighting Sioux nickname

By Dale Wetzel
Bismarck, North Dakota (AP) 3-08

The chancellor of North Dakota’s university system said he will form a committee to discuss the future of the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo.

William Goetz said the panel will have no more than 10 members, and include representatives of UND and the operators of the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

“I don’t want it as a large group,” Goetz said. “Obviously, the university will be involved ... Really, it’s something that is going to have to primarily evolve out of the university, and I would look to that representation as really being a lead.”

Engelstad, who donated money to build the $104 million hockey arena, was a fervent supporter of the nickname and logo. He died in November 2002.

A UND lawsuit settlement with the NCAA, which considers the nickname and logo hostile and abusive, says North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes must agree to retain the nickname and logo by November 2010 to allow the university to keep them.

Goetz, who discussed the issue during late February with the Board of Higher Education in Devils Lake, spoke recently about it with Ron His Horse Is Thunder, who is chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, and Myra Pearson, who is chairwoman of the Spirit Lake Sioux.

Both His Horse Is Thunder and Pearson said there was strong opposition to keeping the nickname and logo among members of both tribes, Goetz said.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe recently reaffirmed a tribal council resolution opposing the nickname and logo. Goetz said Pearson told him there is opposition to a suggestion that the Spirit Lake reservation hold a vote on the subject.

“This issue has evolved somewhat up at Spirit Lake in terms of how the council is looking at it,” Goetz said in an interview. “I think we have to be absolutely certain that there is certainty at that end, that one way or another is their position.”

The committee he intends to form will have to consider what to do next if the nickname and logo is either kept or discarded, Goetz said.

“If the logo nickname is dropped, then there has to be some way to take next steps in determining a new logo nickname,” Goetz said. “If it’s not dropped, it involves relationship-building, that sort of thing. I’m really looking at those individuals to help shape (those) next steps.”

Goetz’s blueprint appears to have similarities to a committee formed by UND President Charles Kupchella in February 2000, less than a year after Kupchella was hired, although Goetz said he was unfamiliar with the earlier panel’s efforts. Kupchella is retiring this summer.

The panel, which included former North Dakota Govs. George Sinner and Allen Olson, studied whether to keep the nickname or drop it.

Kupchella was close to a decision on the issue when the Board of Higher Education voted in December 2000 to keep the nickname and logo. Its vote came after Engelstad said he would stop work on the partially constructed arena if the nickname and logo were dropped.

“The circumstance now is different,” Goetz said. “The issue has gone along and progressed to the point where we’re dealing with different circumstances ... All of that has to be taken into consideration.”