Dispute over ND Fighting Sioux nickname nears end [UPDATED]Published 9:03am Wednesday, June 13, 2012 Updated 12:07pm Wednesday, June 13, 2012
FARGO — North Dakota residents say they’ve had enough of a decades-old controversy on its flagship university’s nickname.
Voters overwhelmingly decided Tuesday to dump the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux moniker, an issue that has put its athletic teams at risk of NCAA sanctions and divided sports fans, alumni and even tribes. But even for the winners, the outcome was bittersweet.
“This is a political matter with no celebration,” said Tim O’Keefe, executive vice president and CEO of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, who led a campaign to retire the nickname. “We’ve said all along that this is not an issue about preference. Clearly if that were the case, the name would be staying. The price of keeping the name is simply too high.”
Some American Indians from the state’s two namesake tribes lobbied for the name and logo to be kept, arguing that they reflected a positive image for their tribes. Eunice Davidson, an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake tribe and member of the committee to save the nickname, was too devastated to talk about the result, her husband Dave Davidson said.
“I will be honest with you. I’m heartbroken and I’m ashamed of this state,” Dave Davidson said. “On the other hand, there are a lot of wonderful people we have met in the course of this.”
Voters in Tuesday’s North Dakota primary were asked whether to uphold or reject the Legislature’s repeal of a state law requiring the school to use the nickname.
The vote sends the matter back to the state’s Board of Higher Education, which is expected to re-retire the nickname and American Indian head logo that seven years ago was deemed hostile and abusive by the NCAA.
The final tally showed about 68 percent voted in favor of retiring the nickname, but the divide was still evident at the voting booths. Only one county voted to save the nickname. Billings County, in far western North Dakota. Residents there voted 150-148 against retiring the name.
Votes have been counted, and the results of the four Fargo and North Dakota Measures are as follows.
• Fargo Measure 1: Extended half-cent sales tax – Yes: 60.3 percent to 39.7 percent
• North Dakota Measure 2: Abolish property taxes – No: 77 percent to 23 percent
• North Dakota Measure 3: Religious freedom – No: 64 percent to 36 percent
• North Dakota Measure 4: Retire Fighting Sioux nickname – Yes: 67 percent to 33 percent