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UND nickname supporters not backing down

GRAND FORKS - Supporters of UND's Fighting Sioux nickname in the Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation aren't backing down, in spite of an earlier decision by the state that makes it extremely difficult for the university to keep the nickname.

Eunice Davidson, spokeswoman for the pro-nickname group, said members plan to meet with the newly elected Tribal Council next week to talk about a formal resolution supporting the nickname.

Spirit Lake voters had thrown their support behind the nickname in an April referendum by a 774-378 margin.

But a council resolution from Spirit Lake and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is needed to satisfy a legal settlement between the state, and by extension UND, and the NCAA, which opposes Indian nicknames. With an overwhelming public vote but lacking a formal resolution, UND still wouldn't be able to keep the nickname.

The State Board of Higher Education added another condition in mid-May requiring a resolution and a 30-year agreement from the state's two Sioux tribes by Oct. 1.

Davidson said her group will ask the Tribal Council to work on that as well, though she doesn't know yet where council members stand.

After the May elections, there are two new members on the four-member council, Darwin Brown, who's also vice chairman, and Clarisse Brownshield. Nickname opponents have said they thought the previous council favored the nickname even though Chairwoman Myra Pearson was opposed.

Standing Rock

The situation at Standing Rock is a bigger wildcard.

Pro-nickname forces there continue to work on a referendum but recently had to bring in an attorney to help with legal issues, according to Tom Iron, a member the state board's nickname committee who's from Standing Rock.

Nickname supporters there have not returned repeated phone calls, so it's unclear how much progress they've made.

Even if a referendum passed at Standing Rock, there's no guarantee the Tribal Council would issue a resolution by the Oct. 1 deadline.

Tribal Chairman Ron His Horse is Thunder told the state board in mid-May that a referendum would not bind the Tribal Council, meaning council members have no legal obligation to issue a resolution.

The council has consistently opposed the nickname, going so far as to ban a referendum.

There's a possibility that tribal elections in September would replace some of those council members and even His Horse is Thunder, but the new council wouldn't take a seat until Oct. 1.

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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