Judge throws out lawsuit over Fighting Sioux nameFARGO (AP) — A federal judge has relegated the political fight over the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux to the history books, but supporters of the retired moniker say they won’t back down.
By: Dave Kolpack, The Dickinson Press
FARGO (AP) — A federal judge has relegated the political fight over the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux to the history books, but supporters of the retired moniker say they won’t back down.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson, in a judgment posted Monday, threw out a lawsuit by six American Indian students at UND, saying the overwhelming statewide vote in June against the nickname and the state Board of Higher Education’s clear intent to retire the logo renders many points in the lawsuit meaningless.
“While some last gasps of further political action are still echoing across the state, it appears that as a political issue, the ‘Fighting Sioux’ nickname and logo dispute has been resolved and the losing position consigned to the dust heap of history,” the judge said.
Supporters of the nickname are pressing for another proposed constitutional amendment that would require UND’s sports teams to be known as the Fighting Sioux. Those gathering petitions for the second initiated measure said Tuesday they would not be submitting signatures by midnight Wednesday, which is the deadline for the November ballot.
But they vow to press on and say they aren’t swayed by Erickson’s assessment.
“As a judge, it is his prerogative to issue his personal opinions from the bench,” said Sean Johnson, spokesman for two groups in favor of the nickname. “Since this court case did not involve us, we are not bound to that opinion, however.”
They have until Dec. 12 to turn in 27,000 signatures to Secretary of State Al Jaeger in order to make the next ballot in June 2014.
Johnson said the Spirit Lake Committee for Understanding and Respect and the Fighting Sioux Ballot Measures Committee did not want the nickname issue to be lumped in with other ballot measures set for November that “were not apparent when we first started our efforts.”
Tim O’Keefe, head of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, which campaigned against the first measure, said Tuesday that plans for another referendum “are not only ill-advised, they become malicious attempts to damage UND, its students, student-athletes and reputation.”
UND students Amber Annis, Lisa Casarez, William Crawford, Sierra Davis, Robert Rainbow, Margaret Scott, Franklin Sage and Janie Schroeder filed their lawsuit in August 2011. They alleged the nickname has had “a profoundly negative impact” on their self-image and psychological health, and has deprived them “of an equal educational experience and environment.”