Nickname supporters turn to Court of AppealsGRAND FORKS — Three days after their effort to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname at the University of North Dakota was roundly rebuffed by state voters, nickname supporters at Spirit Lake filed documents outlining issues they want to address at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
GRAND FORKS — Three days after their effort to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname at the University of North Dakota was roundly rebuffed by state voters, nickname supporters at Spirit Lake filed documents outlining issues they want to address at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The tribe’s Committee for Understanding and Respect has appealed last month’s decision by U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson to dismiss its lawsuit against the NCAA, in which the tribe argued that Sioux people were inappropriately denied “a seat at the table” in negotiations over use of the name, among other issues.
Erickson ordered the lawsuit dismissed on May 1, saying that none of the several counts brought by the pro-nickname committee stated a sufficient legal claim under federal law.
The Spirit Lake committee filed its notice of appeal on June 1 and then turned its attention to the statewide referendum it had placed on the primary election ballot through a petition drive. Last Tuesday, North Dakota voters overwhelmingly rejected that effort and voted to allow UND to retire the nickname.
Reed Soderstrom, attorney for the Spirit Lake committee and for nickname supporters at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, filed a “statement of issues on appeal” with the appeals court on Friday.
The tribe wants the appeals court to examine whether “the sacred traditional 1969 Sioux pipe ceremony” supposedly granting UND the name doesn’t have “binding legal significance or effect,” and whether the tribe, “as an independent sovereign, (has) standing to proceed with an antitrust claim” against the NCAA.
Soderstrom also asks the appeals court to examine whether the NCAA “acted in accordance with its own constitution and bylaws in adopting and implementing its (2005) policy regarding the use of Native American names and imagery by member institutions,” including UND.
In his 23-page order granting the NCAA’s motion to dismiss in District Court, Erickson wrote that “many of the counts (brought by the committee) are entirely without merit, and the ones that could potentially have been meritorious could only have properly been brought by UND.”
Erickson noted that “as a voluntary private organization, the NCAA was free to implement the policies it saw fit for governing its events, no matter how provident or improvident those policies may have been.”
Neither the Spirit Lake Sioux nor Archie Fool Bear, a pro-nickname member of the Standing Rock Sioux and a party to the lawsuit, has membership in the NCAA, the judge wrote. “Their lack of standing is a fatal flaw in nearly every count dismissed in this order.”
Soderstrom indicated in his notice Friday that he intends to raise again the argument that the Sioux do have legal standing because of their sovereign status and rights under treaty as well as state and federal law, including the right to defend “sacred Sioux customs and ceremonies” such as the 1969 pipe ceremony.
The nature and meaning of that ceremony have been matters of dispute throughout the nickname debate, including among Sioux Indians. George W. Starcher, then UND president, was given a Sioux name by elders from the two reservations, and some at Standing Rock and Spirit Lake cite oral history to show that the elders also solemnly and irrevocably granted UND the right to use the Sioux name.
Neither Soderstrom nor an NCAA spokesman responded immediately to requests for comment on the appeals court developments.
The court has scheduled deadlines for the filing of written briefs, with the tribe’s brief due by July 23 and the NCAA’s response due 30 days after the tribe’s is filed.
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