For the time being, referring to the University of North Dakota’s athletic teams as the Fighting Sioux isn’t just a matter of history and tradition. It’s the law.
As of Aug. 15, the school is officially under sanction by the NCAA for holding onto a nickname that the national governing body for college sports has deemed “hostile and abusive” to native people.
Should the University of North Dakota be allowed to keep using the Fighting Sioux nickname?
Comment on our facebook page.
That means that North Dakota cannot host any NCAA tournament games until they adopt a different nickname, nor can they play non-conference games against the many opponents that have a policy against playing native-nicknamed schools.
But in March, the North Dakota State Legislature passed a law requiring the school to keep the nickname.
“As it stands right now, by state law, we are the Fighting Sioux,” said North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison in an August interview, noting that the school is walking a fine line, trying to avoid running afoul of either the NCAA or the state legislature.
Teams from UND have been known as the Sioux since 1930, but that may change as soon as November. That’s when the legislature meets in a special session. Some are vowing to repeal the current state law, meaning the controversial nickname could be changed or dropped, eliminating the NCAA sanctions and other scheduling complications that have arisen.
In anticipation, North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education opted to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname by year’s end in a move that anticipates lawmakers will soon repeal a law.
While the school has gone to great lengths to use the Fighting Sioux nickname in a manner that’s respectful to the state’s native heritage, not all in North Dakota’s tribal communities support the use on hockey sweaters and other athletic apparel. Support from tribes in other states has enabled some institutions to retain native nicknames, including the Florida State Seminoles and Illinois Fighting Illini.
Of course, no vote by the NCAA, the state legislature or a tribal council will change the fact that the home arena for UND’s renowned men’s and women’s hockey teams is adorned with more than 2,000 depictions of the school’s current Indian head logo — on banners, on seats, on etched glass doors and even inlaid into the marble flooring.
So no matter what the teams there are called in the future, the image of the Fighting Sioux will likely be around for a long time to come.