GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) – The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe said Thursday that tribal officials will continue to oppose the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname, even if he loses his re-election bid later this month.
The North Dakota Board of Higher Education has voted to abolish the name and Indian head logo unless it gets a 30-year agreement from the state’s two Sioux tribes by Oct. 1. The issue was not on the agenda at the board’s meeting Thursday, but a handful of supporters and opponents of the nickname spoke during a public comment period.
Standing Rock Chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder told the board that most recent vote by the Standing Rock tribal council was 9-3 against the nickname. He said the result shows the council’s position does not depend on whether he stays in office.
“Let’s move forward with this,” His Horse Is Thunder said. “We have beat each other enough as it is.”
Nickname supporter Archie Fool Bear, also of the Standing Rock reservation, asked the board to allow more time to vote on the nickname and logo.
“I say that with a good heart and an open mind because I respect everybody’s opinion,” Fool Bear said. “If it’s negative and it’s bad against the logo, I respect that opinion. But our culture has always been considered by a lot of people to be a strong point for surviving as a Sioux nation.”
Board President Richie Smith said the board would consider changing the Oct. 1 deadline only if it gets a request from one of the tribal councils. The Spirit Lake Sioux Tribal Council has not asked for more time, and 67 percent of voters on the reservation favored the nickname and logo in a special April election.
Board member Grant Shaft, who chairs a committee formed to study the nickname, said the board should get an update before the end of the month and after the Sept. 30 Standing Rock election.
“If there was some showing that there’s going to be a vote and the only reason that it could not be accomplished is because we had set an arbitrary date out there, I think the board would consider an extension,” Shaft that. “Having said that, we don’t have any showing at this point in time that that is the case.”
Standing Rock member Steve Fool Bear said he believes a majority of his tribe would vote in favor of the nickname.
“The fact of the matter is, we live in a democratic society,” he said.
Spirit Lake member Erich Longie, a UND graduate and nickname opponent, said most of the people who voted for the nickname on his reservation have never been on the UND campus and have never seen firsthand the discrimination that goes with the logo.
“I love this place,” he said. “I have nothing against the institution, nothing against the people who are here. My opposition is strictly against the name. I know what that nickname does.”