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New Indian head painting slated for east wall in Hyslop
A private contracting crew sanded and scraped away a Sioux Indian head logo from the floor of Hyslop Sports Center Thursday morning after UND President Kupchella ordered its removal.
The decision was made a day earlier, according to school Athletic Director Roger Thomas, capping months of discussion among school officials on whether the basketball court was the proper setting for the huge design.
UND officials say a new logo will be placed on the east wall of the basketball arena, next to a sports video board and banners honoring UND teams.
"There's been a lot of discussion recently by some people as to whether it's appropriate to walk on it and run on it," Thomas said of the logo. "The president looked at the issue and decided to have it removed from the floor.
"It was totally the president's call. It was our decision as an athletic department to put it on the court in the first place, but, certainly, now we are going along with the president's decision."
Thomas' statement is consistent with one he made in late May, saying "if the president wants to re-look at it, we can do that."
Kupchella, too, gave indications in May that the basketball court logo might not be a permanent fixture.
"The issue of what we are going to do here in Hyslop has not yet been decided," Kupchella said in a Herald report dated May 30. " (the logo) could be removed. We are still looking at whether we will leave it there."
Thomas said there has been no decision on what, if anything, will replace the 15- to 20-foot diameter Sioux logo, which was painted into the center jump circle of the floor and depicted the head of an Indian brave wearing an eagle feather. Thomas is working with American Indian leaders on campus to find something acceptable.
The logo was commissioned by UND from Bennett Brien, a well-known regional artist who is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa based in Belcourt, N.D.
Thomas had no estimate on what it cost to paint the logo on the basketball floor and how much of an additional cost would come from repainting it in a new location. He said a decision had to be made this week, because the UND volleyball team, which uses the floor and arena, starts practicing in about a week.
The initial decision to put the logo on the basketball court was made earlier this year when the 20-year-old removable or "floating" basketball floor underwent refurbishing.
Kupchella, in a formal university statement to all media outlets, said he wanted to treat the logo like a flag and place it on a wall.
The move gave every indication that a compromise has been reached between UND's administration and opponents of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. But by no means did anyone suggest that the rift that's been around for decades would be over any time soon.
"The advice I got was that it would generally be seen as a more respectful use of the logo to put it on the wall instead of the floor," Kupchella said in the press release.
Earl Strinden, a longtime champion of the UND Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, said he was not aware of any discussion regarding the removal of the logo from the Hyslop floor.
Strinden, executive vice president emeritus of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, said he wanted to give "sufficient respect" to those who made the decision. He added, however, that the biggest question should be why the logo was placed in Hyslop in the first place if it was going to be removed later.
He added that he hopes the new logo is prominently displayed somewhere in the basketball arena.
Strinden bristles at suggestions by those opposed to the nickname and logo that it is disrespectful to place the Indian-head logo on the court.
"I've been in the White House, and I've seen the seal of this great nation prominently displayed in the carpet, and I've been in a number of state capitols and seen the seals of states in rugs," Strinden said. "The point is that we have all kinds of ongoing usage and display of symbols that is not disrespectful. It's done all over."
Strinden went on to say that he's seen symbols that American Indians hold dear -- such as sacred eagle feathers -- that are woven into the carpets of casinos and painted on the bottom of swimming pools in water parks that are owned and operated by American Indian tribes.
"I don't buy the idea that this is defaming or disrespectful," Strinden said. "American Indians themselves have shown this to be untrue by the way they have used displays."
Mary Jane Schneider, chair of UND's Indian Studies Department, a vocal adversary of the Fighting Sioux nickname, took issue with Strinden's comments. She said that most American Indians don't condone putting depictions of human beings on the floor as was the case at Hyslop.
"We do put things on the floor that don't have a symbolic respect attached to them," Schneider said. "Generally, we respect human beings. We don't put the American flag on the floor, and we don't walk on the cross."
Last May, Schneider resigned abruptly from a committee aimed at improving UND's role with American Indians after she learned that the logo had been painted on the Hyslop floor.
She was unaware that the logo already had been removed when contacted by the Herald Thursday, but upon hearing the news, she voiced encouragement.
"This is really good news," she said. "It's a real boost for us."
How this most recent decision will affect the standing of other Indian-head logos at other facilities used by the UND teams is unknown, Thomas said.
Two of the largest facilities -- the Alerus Center and the new Ralph Engelstad Arena -- are not controlled by the university, and thus any displays or symbols are for the most part out of UND's control.
Leigh Jeanotte, director of Native American Studies at UND, said he too was pleased to learn that the logo had been removed. He said he's been working with UND administrators and athletic department officials to find alternative symbols that could replace the Indian-head design if it ever were removed.
Jeanotte gives Thomas great credit for being sensitive to the issue and for bringing a conciliatory presence to all discussions.
Jeanotte said that he is open to a suggestion by Thomas that what ever replaces the Indian-head logo should be something that is rooted in American Indian or Sioux culture. Jeanotte stipulated, however, that it should be "some sort of symbolism that everybody can rally behind."
Other suggestions for a replacement logo, Jeanotte said, would be to have some sort of geometric symbol or a design that educates people about American Indians.
Both Thomas and Jeanotte say no matter what replaces the Indian-head logo, they would like it to be a positive for all involved.
"This is a way to rebuild fences," Jeanotte said, "and to start to work cooperatively."
Source: Grand Forks Herald, August 3, 2001