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Source: Grand Forks Herald, November 22, 1999

Logo controversy continues


Engelstad asked Kupchella to bring back the Blackhawk but UND president tells students no nickname conditions are tied to gift during heated discussion

By Ian Swanson

Herald Staff Writer

UND President Charles Kupchella told Ralph Engelstad it was very unlikely that UND would consider re-adopting the Blackhawk Indian head logo after the Las Vegas hotel owner and UND benefactor indicated last summer that he'd like to see the logo reinstated.

Kupchella said he then suggested to Engelstad that if a more respectful and noble representation of the Sioux could be found, UND might consider adopting it to complement the school's existing geometric Indian head logo.

These conversations were brought up by Kupchella during an emotionally draining, three-hour discussion on Sunday between UND's president and a group of 50 UND students, faculty and staff, primarily of American Indian descent, at UND's Native American Center.

The discussion was scheduled after news that UND was looking at a new logo became public. Though the meeting was not a response to that news, talk of the logo was expected.

Today, UND is to unveil a logo commissioned by the UND Foundation and created by Native American artist Bennett Brien.

Complement, not replace

Kupchella repeated on Sunday that Brien's work will not replace UND's geometric Indian head logo, which has adorned UND hockey uniforms since 1993. That's when President Kendall Baker announced the geometric symbol would replace the Blackhawk Indian head logo.

Kupchella said the new logo would be used in addition to the geometric symbol.

"It didn't occur to me that this would be a problem," he said. "If I made a mistake, it's an error and I've made it."

Engelstad announced last December that he would donate $100 million to his alma mater, half of which would be used to build a new hockey arena. Engelstad was critical of Baker's decision to drop the Blackhawk logo, and for months, rumors have circulated about a possible new logo.

Kupchella said any donor to the university has a right to ask for conditions tied to a gift. But he said there were no such conditions tied to Engelstad's gift. He also noted that UND doesn't have any money from Engelstad at this time.

In June, about three weeks before he formally took office as UND's 10th president, Kupchella visited Engelstad in Las Vegas, Kupchella said. At that time, Engelstad indicated that he would like the Blackhawk Indian head logo reinstated.

"I said, 'Ralph, I don't think so,'" said Kupchella, who described the Blackhawk logo as a "goofy" representation UND would not want to reinstate.

But in what he said may have been a weak moment, Kupchella suggested that if someone could come up with a logo that had more of a noble characterization on Indian people, that UND would consider adopting that logo.

UND then commissioned Brien to do his work. Kupchella said he showed the work to a number of people, including Native American Programs Director Leigh Jeanotte and Native American Program Coordinator Linda Sinclair. None of the people he showed the work to said they found anything offensive in it.

"I would never do anything that I thought would hurt people to please him (Engelstad) in all my life," Kupchella said in an interview after the discussion.

He said the suggestion of a more respectful logo wasn't meant to mollify Engelstad and that he didn't believe it compromised UND. He repeated that many people have complained about the geometric logo.

Insults replace cordiality

Kupchella's reception at the Native American Center was initially polite. But tears, insults and angry words quickly replaced cordiality in a crowded room filled with an uncomfortable, tense atmosphere.

While his wife, Adele, sat in the front row, UND's new president, who took office on July 1, was scolded and insulted by some students, one of whom said Kupchella had handled the nickname issue "childishly" and without appearing "too bright."

Students criticized Kupchella for not telling them of the new logo. Though the intent of UND's administration may be to use the logo in a respectful way, they said that is not happening in practice. Several speakers said the continuing nickname controversy affects studies and creates a hostile environment.

Students disagreed with Kupchella when he said the Seminoles logo and nickname used by Florida State University has the support of that tribe. Students also quickly mentioned the names of universities, including Stanford, Dartmouth and St. John's, that have replaced Indian nicknames.

Frank Johnson, an African-American student at UND who is a volunteer, undergraduate student coach for the football team, said he used to be the last person who wanted to change UND's nickname. Then his mother asked him what he'd do if the school's name was the Fighting N------.

"I told her that I'd burn this campus down. I know what my grandmother went through," Jackson said to applause from those attending the meeting.

Other comments were confrontational, and some were personal.

After thanking Kupchella for coming, UND student Ira Taken Alive, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation who has been active in efforts to change UND's name, made a point to not apologize for the heated remarks made by others.

"What you're hearing today is a lot of frustration," he said. "I know what they're feeling. . . . The latest move to change the logo, while some say is a step sideways, is a slap in the face."

Continue to learn

Kupchella said he makes a distinction between the nickname and the logo, and that he wants to continue to learn about the issue. He repeatedly asked those attending the meeting for patience, saying that he had started in July from ground zero on the nickname issue.

He also said he believed UND has used the nickname respectfully, and expressed a bit of frustration with people who don't accept that perception.

"Frankly, what I see as a brand-new president is that the university has tried to live up to its responsibilities in borrowing the nickname," Kupchella said.

He noted that UND has 32 substantive Native American programs on its campus and that the university ranks third in the nation in the number of Native American doctors graduated.

"That doesn't mean we couldn't do more," Kupchella said. "The need is obviously still there."

Kupchella said he wanted to visit every reservation in North Dakota, and he also suggested that he and some students visit Florida State and Stanford. The meeting closed with Kupchella and the audience agreeing to meet again soon.