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Standing Rock Tribal chairman says there won't be quick resolution to UND nickname issue

MINOT, N.D. - It appears increasingly unlikely that UND's Fighting Sioux nickname will appear on any referendum on the Standing Rock reservation anytime in the immediate future.

North Dakota University System Chancellor Bill Goetz, who visited with Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Charles W. Murphy, talked about that visit with the State Board of Higher Education this morning.

He said the chairman reiterated that the issue is not high on his agenda and that it is a "very, very divisive" issue both on the Tribal Council and on the reservation at large. The chairman, Goetz said, is concerned about this and about the impact on American Indian students at UND and throughout the university system.

Goetz said the chairman noted that he was not at liberty to push for a tribal referendum because that's a matter for the Tribal Council and, to date, the council has not discussed the issue. A moratorium on such referendums, passed by a previous council, remains in force, Goetz said.

This reflects the tone of an earlier letter from Murphy to the chancellor in which he indicated the nickname was not a priority for his administration.

Under the settlement between the state and the NCAA, which considers American Indian nicknames offensive, UND has

until Nov. 30, 2010, to win the support of the state's two Sioux tribes. The Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation has approved the nickname following an overwhelming referendum.

The state board favors moving the deadline ahead so that UND can apply to the Summit League athletic conference, which has said it would not consider any application until the nickname issue is resolved.

In the meantime, a lawsuit by nickname supporters there are attempting to prevent the state board from moving the deadline. The attorney general will brief the board in a closed session this afternoon on the lawsuit.