North Dakota hockey fans still fight to call team ‘Sioux’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

MINOT, N.D. he Univer­sity of North Dakota has changed its sports team nick­name to the Fight­ing Hawks, the win­ner in an on­line vote over Roughrid­ers. But hockey fan Duffy Doubek wasn’t thrilled with ei­ther op­tion.

“I think they both (stink). I dis­like them equally well,” Mr. Doubek, owner of Duffy’s Hockey and Sports, said on the eve of the vote. “The ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­lace and alumni don’t want a new nick­name. They just don’t want to have any nick­name.”

Un­less, of course, they can keep the Fight­ing Sioux. But un­like with the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins — owner Dan Sny­der has said the team will keep the name for as long as he owns the fran­chise — that is no longer an op­tion.

At least not an of­fi­cial op­tion. The NCAA may have suc­ceeded in forc­ing uni­ver­si­ties to elim­i­nate Amer­i­can In­di­anthemed nick­names, mas­cots and lo­gos, but that hasn’t stopped the de­fi­ant Sioux-lov­ing na­tion.

The stands at Ralph En­gel­stad Arena are packed dur­ing games, with boost­ers chant­ing Sioux cheers and wear­ing Sioux gear, even though UND has had no nick­name since 2012, when North Dakotans voted to

Tre­tire the Fight­ing Sioux in the face of an NCAA threat to for­feit post­sea­son games.

The NCAA tried to shush the fans by warn­ing in Au­gust that ac­tion may be taken against the UND ath­let­ics pro­gram if other schools com­plain about chants such as “home of the Sioux,” which is sung at the end of the na­tional an­them. “Schools can be held ac­count­able for their fans’ ac­tions/be­hav­ior at school events,” said an NCAA spokes­woman in an email to the Grand Forks Her­ald.

Univer­sity spokesman Peter John­son said there has been no at­tempt by the univer­sity to muz­zle the fans, adding, “Peo­ple can wear what they’re go­ing to wear, peo­ple can say what they want to say” within the bounds of ac­cept­able be­hav­ior.

Still, univer­sity of­fi­cials are hope­ful that the fan base will warm up to the win­ner of the nick­name com­pe­ti­tion. The fi­nal runoff vote of stu­dents, alumni, fac­ulty, staff, re­tirees and donors was an­nounced Wed­nes­day, with the Fight­ing Hawks best­ing the Roughrid­ers by 57.24 to 42.76 per­cent.

At a press con­fer­ence, UND Pres­i­dent Robert Kel­ley called it a “very, very ex­cit­ing day,” say­ing he was “very pleased to let you know that we’ve brought the past to the point where we’re go­ing to tran­si­tion into our fu­ture on our nick­name is­sue at this ex­cep­tional univer­sity.”

The univer­sity sent out about 82,000 bal­lots via Qualtrics email and re­ceived back 26,479. Some el­i­gi­ble vot­ers were spot­ted try­ing to sell their bal­lots on Craigslist.

But many fans were up­set that the bal­lots haven’t in­cluded a “North Dakota/UND” op­tion, which would main­tain the univer­sity’s nick­name-free sta­tus. UND Pres­i­dent Robert Kel­ley con­sid­ered adding the choice but de­cided against it.

“He got an aw­ful lot of feed­back and ul­ti­mately de­cided to sup­port the rec­om­men­da­tions of the nick­name com­mit­tee,” said Mr. John­son.

On the UND Fight­ing Sioux Hockey page on Face­book, which has more than 13,000 fol­low­ers, Court­ney Peter­son said, “No one re­ceived 50% be­cause they’re all ter­ri­ble. Take a hint and leave it North Dakota.”

Ya­hoo Sports called this month’s nick­name vote “com­pletely su­per­flu­ous, as the stands for hockey games will still be flooded by Fight­ing Sioux gear.”

No state re­sisted the NCAA’s 2005 de­cree for longer than North Dakota. High­lights of the saga in­cluded the 2012 statewide vote and Gov. Jack Dal­rym­ple’s sign­ing of a 2011 bill or­der­ing the state Board of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion to re­tain the Fight­ing Sioux nick­name.

The NCAA per­mits uni­ver­si­ties that win the bless­ing of the lo­cal tribes to keep Amer­i­can In­dian-re­lated nick­names, but while North Dakota’s Spirit Lake Sioux voted over­whelm­ingly to grant per­mis­sion, the Stand­ing Rock Sioux tribal coun­cil voted against the name’s con­tin­ued use.

Forc­ing a univer­sity fan base to em­brace a nick­name is a shaky propo­si­tion, as other schools can at­test. At the Univer­sity of Den­ver, for ex­am­ple, of­fi­cials have tried with­out suc­cess to re­place “Den­ver Boone,” the chubby, bearded mas­cot drawn by Walt Dis­ney, who was dropped in 1998 af­ter be­ing deemed “un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive” of the stu­dent body.

An ef­fort to usher in “Ruckus,” a red­tailed hawk, as a mas­cot for the Den­ver Pi­o­neers teams was scrapped in 2007. Since then “Den­ver Boone” has reemerged as the un­of­fi­cial mas­cot, com­plete with pri­vately backed spirit wear and a cos­tumed fig­ure who ap­pears at games and events.

At his shop Mr. Duffy keeps by his cash reg­is­ter an au­to­graphed draw­ing of the Fight­ing Sioux logo by Amer­i­can In­dian artist Ben­nett Brien, a mem­ber of the Tur­tle Moun­tain Band of Chippewa In­di­ans. Hang­ing from the rafters are old UND Sioux jer­seys.

Casey Ryan, who works at the store, pre­dicted that the out­come of the vote won’t change the cul­ture.

“If you live here, you ei­ther have a Sioux hat or jer­sey. There are thou­sands of pieces out there,” said Mr. Ryan. “They’re still go­ing to wear their Sioux jer­seys, they’re still go­ing to chant, ‘Let’s go, Sioux.’”

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