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Davidson: It was a ‘set up:' Fighting Sioux nickname supporter tell her story

A group of Sioux people who fought to keep UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname probably never had a chance of success, according to a book one of the group members have written.

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In a recent interview, author Eunice Davidson called the deal with the anti-nickname NCAA to keep the nickname a “set up.”

“Everything that we faced… everything we did, everything we were asked to, and every time we do something they seem to set the bar higher,” she said. And by “they” she said she meant big players involved in the struggle, such as state officials who negotiated a deal that required the approval of not just one but two Sioux tribes in North Dakota.

Davidson’s book, “Aren’t We Sioux Enough?: The Truth Behind the Attack on the UND Fighting Sioux Tradition,” is the story of the struggle for the nickname from the perspective of the pro-nickname Committee for Understanding and Respect. The committee was made up of members of the Spirit Lake Nation, like Davidson, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

It’s been two years since the university retired the nickname and committee members have stopped working to bring back the nickname. But Davidson said she wrote the book now to “get the truth out.”

She said she fears that, without the nickname, UND would no longer have a special tie with Sioux people that provides them with a better educational opportunity.

Nickname opponents have long argued the nickname created a negative educational environment for American Indians because it’s offensive and fosters offensive attitudes. Recently, when some UND students were seen wearing “Siouxper drunk” T-shirts, nickname opponents again blamed the nickname.

Davidson said the T-shirts were “disgusting” and “in bad taste” but did not cause an uproar at her reservation as it did on campus. “Obviously if there weren’t a nickname that wouldn’t have happened but there would be something else wouldn’t there?” she said. “People got to stop being so sensitive about every little thing.”

Sioux enough

“Aren’t We Sioux Enough?” is a play on the words of U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson.

During a hearing in 2012, the judge questioned why Florida State University only needed the approval of one Seminole tribe and Central Michigan University only needed one Chippewa tribe when there are several other namesake tribes.

Erickson noted that the Spirit Lake tribe had already voted for the nickname — in fact, it was an overwhelming 67 percent “yes” vote.

“Aren’t they Sioux enough?” he asked the NCAA attorney.

Davidson’s group tried to get a vote at Standing Rock but tribal leaders refused to hear of it.

In the end, Erickson dismissed her group’s lawsuit against the NCAA. And, as the war over the nickname heated up, more North Dakotans tired of the acrimony. More than 60 percent voted to retire the nickname in 2012.

Still Davidson said she hears from nickname supporters who want to bring it back. “I always say to myself, ‘If they take it away you can bring it back.’”

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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