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University Gives Up Long Battle to Keep Nickname

  • Ted Landphair

University of North Dakota sports teams have proudly worn the “Fighting Sioux” logo for many years.

University of North Dakota sports teams have proudly worn the “Fighting Sioux” logo for many years.

Struggle over ‘Fighting Sioux’ is over

The last holdout fighting the elimination of American Indian-themed nicknames and mascots in college sports has given in. The University of North Dakota, which has held firmly to its “Fighting Sioux” nickname, has agreed to come up with a new nickname, logo, and team mascot.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, which governs college sports, considers the nickname - and others such as “Indians” and “Savages” - to be “hostile and abusive” toward Native Americans, and has encouraged schools to replace them.

This woman sports a Fighting Sioux war bonnet, albeit one that’s not very fearsome.

This woman sports a Fighting Sioux war bonnet, albeit one that’s not very fearsome.

There are two other college sports programs that still have Indian mascots, but they meet guidelines that exempt them. Florida State University keeps its “Seminole” nickname and the fellow who dresses up in feathers and war paint and rides an Indian pony at football games. Florida’s Seminole tribe agreed it could hold onto the Indian designation.

And the University of Illinois is holding fast to its Indian nickname, the "Fighting Illini," named after an early tribe in the region. But the school dumped its mascot — a young white guy named "Illiniwek," dressed in full Sioux Indian regalia, who pretended to be a fierce warrior.

Florida State’s Seminole logo, in full war cry, will apparently survive NCAA prohibitions on offensive Indian symbols.

Florida State’s Seminole logo, in full war cry, will apparently survive NCAA prohibitions on offensive Indian symbols.

In North Dakota, the legislature ordered the state university to hold onto the Fighting Sioux nickname. But the area Standing Rock Tribe does not support that name.

And the NCAA has begun to impose penalties on the university for keeping it. The school, which is dominant in football and ice hockey, is now banned from hosting postseason playoff games. And no games can be televised from Grand Forks unless every logo showing the Fighting Sioux image is removed or covered.

So the university has given up. It says it will announce a new nickname and logo sometime during this school year.

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