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UND NICKNAME: Debate Raged to Changed Nickname Since 1930s

A UND panel on the Fighting Sioux nickname was dominated Monday by comments about why it should be changed. Among the attendees, only a handful indicated they support the continued use of the name and its related logo, which were both labeled offensive by most participants. UND degrades American Indian people by using the nickname Fighting Sioux, said most people in the audience. Sioux means poisonous snake in the traditional language of Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people. These people and others, including many non-Indians at the panel discussion, consider the term derogatory.

"Wetbacks to the Hispanics means the same thing as Sioux to the Lakota," said Teton Dueheneaux, a Lakota man who attends UND. "You're being ignorant when you say you're honoring (Indians). I'm the one you're trying to honor. I don't feel honored." The event was attended by many Indian people. All but one of the Indian speakers said they're offended by the use of the nickname and its related logo.

"I don't take offense at the nickname," said a woman who identified herself as Cherokee Indian. "I don't protest Jeep Cherokee because it uses my tribe's name. I don't take offense at that because I have pride in myself." She said people who use the name and logo in a disrespecting means are ignorant and deserve pity. Prior to 1930, UND's athletic teams were called the Flickertails, but that name didn't sound tough enough to compete against the Bison, the name of rival NDSU's athletic teams. The name Fighting Sioux was chosen, without input from Indians, because "Sioux" were considered war-like, not to honor local Indian people, said Holly Annis  assistant director of the Native Media Center.

She was one of two Indians on the three-person panel that led the discussion. Other panelists were Angelique Eagle Woman, an alumnus of the Law School and a current UND staff member; and Amanda Black, a UND student. The event was moderated by Matsimela Changa Diop, director of multicutural student services at UND. Invited by Diop to join the panel, Black, who isn't Indian, said she's very proud of the name. "It's (the name controversy) disrupting everyone's education," she said. "It's not just Native American students. We need to be civil about the whole thing and listen to the other side." Black was one of four people to speak in favor of the nickname. Those who oppose it say they have valid reasons to continue to speak against it.

Since the name was adopted, it has led to several incidents of racial violence and intolerance on campus, Annis said. The opponents of any team want to tease their opposition, said Eagle Woman, who has campaigned to change the name for five years. "There is no honorable, respectful way to use human beings as athletic mascots," Eagle Woman said. "This issue is not going away. It will continue to be an issue on campus until the name goes away."

Source:  Grand Forks Herald, Sept 26, 2000