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After All these Years UND's Administration Still Insensitive to Native Americans
UND officials said Tuesday the school's controversial new Indian-head logo unveiled on Monday may not be used at all after a third day of heated complaints from some students, faculty members and staff.
"The president wishes to have more conversations that relate to this issue before any decision is made," said Bob Boyd, UND's vice president for outreach and student services.
"There will be no use of the image on hockey uniforms during this winter," said Boyd, who told a group of UND students, faculty and staff members that UND Athletic Director Roger Thomas has told coaches the school is not sure how or if the logo will be used.
Boyd spoke Tuesday afternoon on behalf of UND President Charles Kupchella during a meeting at the Native American Center with students critical of the new logo and UND's Fighting Sioux nickname.
Kupchella, who will be out of town until after Thanksgiving weekend, had conferred with Boyd via telephone after about 60 students, faculty and staff members, many of whom were Native American, rallied against the logo in Twamley Hall on Tuesday morning.
Officials said the statements did not represent backpedaling from Monday's action, when the school unveiled a new logo designed by Native American artist Bennett Brien. They said the new logo is intended to be used in addition to the geometric logo now used by UND.
"I don't think that UND is taking a step back," said Peter Johnson, UND media relations coordinator, who said Kupchella also did not perceive the statements as a change in policy.
"Yesterday he said no decision has been made on the logo," Johnson said.
But in its press release on Monday, the university said Kupchella was approving Thomas' request that sports teams be allowed to add the new symbol.
Though Kupchella said at a news conference on Monday that UND hadn't decided how to use the new logo, the press release said consideration was being given to putting the new symbol on UND's hockey uniforms.
In an interview on Monday with the Herald, Dean Blais, head coach of the hockey team, said that he'd put the logo on jerseys this year if approval was granted by Thomas and Kupchella.
Boyd spent most of his day Tuesday asking students for patience and a second chance for Kupchella as he learns more about what has been an explosive issue at UND over much of this decade.
The vice president received a cordial reception from students, who thanked Boyd for meeting with them and described him as a friend and ally. The tone of the meetings stood in sharp contrast to the reception Kupchella received during both Monday's unveiling and a tense fireside chat at the Native American Center on Sunday.
Boyd said that for Kupchella, "This has been a whale of a learning experience in the last three days." He said UND's new president, on the job since July 1, has been profoundly affected by the events, and that students have had an impact.
During two sete meetings with students, Boyd said Kupchella was genuinely taken aback by the passion expressed at Sunday's meeting by students, who scolded the president for not heeding their concerns about the new logo.
Boyd said Kupchella wanted to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, and that he wanted a second chance.
"We can't undo any wrongs that have transpired over the past three days," Boyd said. "Let's see if we can head off in a new direction . . . He's asking for another chance."
A learning experience
Boyd also said lots of people tried to tell Kupchella how passionately people feel about the Fighting Sioux nickname.
"Unless you actually experience that passion, it's easy to not learn how deeply felt it is," Boyd said.
Boyd said he asked Kupchella if promises about a new logo had been made to Ralph Engelstad, the Las Vegas casino owner who is giving UND $100 million and building the school a new hockey arena.
"He answered that he had made no such promises," Boyd said. "That is why I am willing to talk to you."
Action, not words
Students attending the morning rally and afternoon meeting said they were willing to meet with Kupchella as early as next week. But they also said they wanted more than words. They said they wanted action taken on UND's Fighting Sioux nickname.
"We are concerned about the name," said Holly Annis, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux (S.D.) Tribe and assistant director of UND's Native Media Center. "Obviously it encompasses all these logos, but that's what we're concerned about."
Several people at the rally expressed skepticism over UND's statements that Engelstad's gift and the new logo are not connected. One said the new logo and the Blackhawk Indian-head logo discarded by President Kendall Baker in 1993 were too similar to be a coincidence. Engelstad was opposed to Baker's move, and indicated over the summer to Kupchella that he'd like to see the Blackhawk logo reinstated.
UND Languages Professor Virgil Benoit said he's stayed at UND over the years for less money because he'd like to see the university get somewhere.
"We are going to have to refuse the money to get somewhere on this issue," Benoit said at Tuesday's rally.
Source: Grand Forks Herald, November 24, 1999