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Supporters of UND nickname appeal to North Dakota Supreme Court

GRAND FORKS -- Supporters of UND's Fighting Sioux nickname who lost their lawsuit against the state last year filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court on Friday.

It could extend the life of the nickname because it could block the State Board of Higher Education from retiring the nickname until the court decides on the appeal, though that depends on who you ask.

Grand Forks attorney Pat Morley, who filed the appeal on behalf of the supporters, has said the judge's initial injunction still stands, blocking the board's retirement of the nickname.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, though, has said the lawsuit's dismissal means the injunction is no longer in force.

The board will discuss what it can do about that at its monthly meeting Thursday at UND.

Morley said Friday that it takes as long as nine months for the Supreme Court to decide, but he understands the state will seek an expedited hearing and he'll agree to it.

It could all be over in 45 days, he said.

Stenehjem said that, actually, he expected Morley to ask for an expedited hearing.

The nickname supporters, all members of the Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation, filed the lawsuit when it became apparent that the state board was getting ready to retire the nickname at its Nov. 19 meeting in Minot.

A settlement between the state and the NCAA, which considers American Indian nicknames offensive, gives UND until Nov. 30 to win the approval of both the state's Sioux tribes to keep the nickname. The supporters had already campaigned successfully to win their tribe's approval in April, but fellow supporters at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have struggled.

Last May, the state board decided the Nov. 30 deadline was too late because UND wants to join the Summit League athletic conference and the league has said it won't consider an application until the nickname issue is resolved.

When Standing Rock tribal leaders showed no signs they would move toward nickname approval anytime soon, the board began discussing retiring the nickname early.

Nickname supporters argue that the state is obligated to stick to the original 2010 deadline because it has an obligation to them as Sioux people who would lose out if the nickname is changed.