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Native Americans embrace new name

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- University of North Dakota student Wind Spirit Spotted Bear, 28, said she was "relieved" by the choice of Fighting Hawks as the new university nickname. "I just hope they can move away from the Fighting Sioux nickname now and...

 

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- University of North Dakota student Wind Spirit Spotted Bear, 28, said she was "relieved" by the choice of Fighting Hawks as the new university nickname.

"I just hope they can move away from the Fighting Sioux nickname now and be happy with this selection," said Spotted Bear, who identifies herself as Nueta and Hiraaca, known also as Hidatsa. "Personally, I thought the Fighting Sioux nickname was derogatory. By treating us and our culture as mascots, it's not respecting who we are."

Some American Indians, including Spotted Bear, said Wednesday they embraced a nickname that wasn't the Fighting Sioux.

Leigh Jeanotte, director of UND's American Indian Student Services, said the process was inclusive. He wanted to extend "a great deal of thanks to the naming selection committee, as well as President Kelley" for doing a great job.

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"I think everyone will move forward and endorse the name for the entire university, especially student athletics," he said.

Jesse Taken Alive is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council and was in favor of retiring the Fighting Sioux name.

"I'm thankful the school has come this far and look forward to full adoption and use of their new nickname," he said in a text message. "It has been a long and interesting journey. In our Lakota language we say Wopila (a heart-given thank you)."

Leander "Russ" McDonald is the president of United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck and also a former chairman of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribal Council and a member of UND's nickname committee. He said he sees the use of the old nickname as a civil rights issue for students because it interrupted his own educational experience at UND in the late 1990s.

"I'm glad to see this happening," he said. "I think it's really a step in the right direction for UND to have a safe learning environment for all students."

McDonald said the results of the vote uphold a statewide vote in 2012 when North Dakotans voted in favor of retiring the nickname, something he sees as positive because teams with Native American mascots are "taking heat" across the country.

"I'm just starting to envision how UND will move on from here," he said.

UTTC is in the process of a logo redesign contest for its Thunderhawks logo. McDonald said, as with UND's transition, some aren't happy with the idea of replacing the old logo.

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Jordan Dionne, a UND student and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, said he loved the Fighting Sioux nickname. He's a transfer student who just started his first semester at the university.

"I didn't think it really spoke out against our culture as Native Americans, though I didn't agree with the racial slurs and some of the banter that happened," he said.

While he's not a big fan of the Fighting Hawks name, he's looking forward to moving on, he said.

 

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