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North Dakota attorney general said UND nickname deadline could be pushed backed

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North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is suggesting the state push back the deadline for UND's Fighting Sioux nickname past Oct. 1.

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"I hope they do push back that deadline," he said. "The purpose of that settlement that we reached with the NCAA was designed to assure the tribes that they would have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the use of the nickname."

He said he'd heard rumors to the effect that the State Board of Higher Education would, in fact, consider such a move when it meets at UND next Thursday. But his sources indicated the board might only move the deadline a few weeks, he said, which wouldn't be enough time for the tribes to work with.

The board had voted in May to impose an Oct. 1 deadline even though the settlement with the NCAA gives UND until February to win support for use of the nickname from the state's two Sioux tribes.

The NCAA considers Indian nicknames to be racist, as does a number of American Indians. Many Indians, however, take pride in such nicknames.

Spirit Lake, one of the two tribes, voted in April on the nickname, and 67 percent of voters supported UND's use of it. Nickname supporters at Standing Rock think they'll get the same results if allowed a vote, but the Tribal Council has so far refused to let it happen.

Recently, Archie Fool Bear, a leader among nickname supporters there, said flat out that he will not be able to get anything done with the present council and would, therefore, not meet the Oct. 1 deadline.

Stenehjem said the political situation is ripe for change there as the Sept. 30 tribal election approaches, meaning a more supportive Tribal Council could be in place. The new council members will need more than a few weeks to work on the nickname issue, he said.

But besides a council resolution of support, which may come because of a public vote or not, the state board also required tribes sign a 30-year agreement with UND to settle the nickname issue on a long-term basis.

Stenehjem said he doesn't think that agreement is necessary. The state board thinks it is but the settlement doesn't require it, he said.

The board's concern was that, without a timeframe, the issue would come back to haunt UND time and again as nickname opponents fight on.

Not so, Stenehjem said. "The folks I talked to said if they give their approval, they're giving their approval and they shouldn't think it's for a temporary period of time."

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