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Kolpack: Fargo man's likeness will live in eternity with old Fighting Sioux logo

Fargo resident Billy Lavendure was the model for the last UND Fighting Sioux Native American logo. David Samson / Forum News Service

FARGO -- He could tell the story over and over and if you’re standing in front of Billy Laverdure, you could roll your eyes in disbelief. That old University of North Dakota American Indian logo? Some of Laverdure’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity brothers at UND back in the 1990s will tell you it’s him.

Laverdure will tell you it’s probably him.

The artist, Bennett Brien, will tell you it could be him.

Still not sure? All it takes is for Laverdure to turn his head for a profile shot.

That’s him.

Now 46 years old, it’s not lost on the Fargo resident or any ardent UND fan the significance of the logo. With no change in the foreseeable future, Laverdure’s likeness will live in eternity with lovers of the old logo.

“I try not to let it get to my head, no pun intended,” Laverdure said. “There is so much around it political-wise, historical-wise and it’s divided a good thing.”

Laverdure’s lineage is the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians based in Belcourt, N.D. It’s the home base of his parents, grandparents and great grandparents.

The Sioux nickname controversy was a decade-plus battle that began in the late 1990s and wasn’t finalized until 2012 when it was formally retired. It encompassed a vast swath of elected officials, lawyers, higher education officials, NCAA officials and pretty much anybody with a public voice.

The nickname controversy will go down as one of the all-time public issues in the state of North Dakota history.

Go to a UND hockey game and the American Indian logo is everywhere. Certainly, there are fans who would rather stick a sharp pencil in their eye than wear a Fighting Hawks jersey.

There have been times when Laverdure has been a celebrity of sorts. He’s signed UND jerseys with the American Indian logo.

All it takes is for him to give people a profile look.

“Nobody believes me until I turn my head,” he said. “Then it’s like, oh yeah, I can see it now.”

The story goes like this. Brien was asked by Earl Strinden, the former president of the UND Alumni Association, to come up with five designs for a logo. It was around that time when Brien was hanging with Laverdure and his friends. They played music together; Brien with his fiddle and Laverdure with his guitar.

They were tailgating at a football game one day when Brien brought out his first design.

“All my fraternity brothers were like, holy cow, that’s Billy,” Laverdure said. “And Bennett said it could be.”

Was it?

Brien can’t say yes. He can’t say no, either.

It’s not as if Laverdure was a sitting model while Brien went about his design. Brien says it was developed with a self-portrait in mind and, well, they are cousins.

“You never know how that works,” Brien said. “You sit down and start to draw. I’ll go with it that it’s him.”

It turns out Brien never did get to the other four designs that Strinden wanted. Strinden was sold on the first one.

Brien, incidentally, is not done drawing UND logos. He recently finished a Fighting Hawks version that he hopes gains traction. Some of the coloring is similar to his old American Indian logo.

“It’s my interpretation of the Hawk,” Brien said.

So if you see one of Brien’s friends or relatives out there who looks like a hawk … go with it.

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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