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Brotherton: Gee, about that Fighting Hawks name ...

HIGHLAND VILLAGE, Texas -- So the University of North Dakota, my beloved alma mater, has bungled its nickname renaming process even more.

It didn’t even bother to check on whether or not there was anyone else in the state using the Hawk name. It turns out that just down the road, Dickinson State University has been using the Blue Hawk name. And, apparently they don’t like UND using a name that they already had.

You may recall that I was lead counsel in the lawsuit filed against the University of North Dakota to stop the nickname vote, and that after suit was filed, all seven judges in Grand Forks County recused themselves. We then had to go to the North Dakota Supreme Court, who assigned a Fargo judge to hear the lawsuit.

In our hearing where we requested a temporary restraining order, the attorney general’s office, representing the university, argued that the whole process of replacing the Fighting Sioux name was just a “feeling out process.” On the basis of that argument, the court denied our request for a temporary restraining order.

But apparently UND forgot to feel out Dickinson State. Sure enough, if you go to the Dickinson State website, they proudly proclaim it to be home of the Blue Hawks. Although I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blue hawk; nonetheless, Dickinson State maintains that they exist and that they have them. And, that they had them before UND, which is undisputed.

And what exactly is a Fighting Hawk? We have red-tailed hawks here in Texas, just like in North Dakota, and the only creatures I see hawks do battle with are crows and the occasional sparrow. This is certainly not the stuff of legend.

I argued in an earlier opinion piece that it was not too late for UND to do the right thing. Now that former Gov. Ed Schafer is going to be stepping in as the new interim president of UND, outgoing president Robert Kelley should suspend the nickname replacement process and keep UND/North Dakota as the nickname of our proud university.

We have become the laughingstock of the political correctness parade. Princeton University is going to remove the portrait of former U.S. president Woodrow Wilson for perceived racism. The University of Missouri president resigned when he wouldn’t renounce white privilege. Where does all this silliness end?

I would think that the University of Oklahoma will soon have to replace its vaunted Sooner nickname. After all, Sooners are the white settlers that raced across the state in the great Oklahoma land rush. And guess whose land they took?

Let’s do the right thing UND. Halt the nickname replacement process, keep the UND/North Dakota name for now, and let’s have a new vote to include that name as one of the selections. And let’s include the Sioux in any future votes, because as I’ve stated earlier and as described in our lawsuit against the university, both North Dakota Sioux tribes gave the Fighting Sioux name to UND in a sacred pipe ceremony held in 1969.

UND acknowledged that the Sioux gave the Fighting Sioux name to the university in its own lawsuit against the NCAA. But UND gave up that battle because it incorrectly argued that only the Spirit Lake Tribe had presented the university with the Fighting Sioux name. In fact, it was both tribes, a fact attested to by plaintiff Lavonne Alberts, a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux, who was present with her grandmother at the 1969 sacred pipe ceremony, and saw elders from both tribes present. Archie Fool Bear with the Standing Rock Sioux has also confirmed that fact.

I’ve argued that UND should relinquish the Fighting Sioux name and logo back to the tribes for their benefit, especially in light of the fact that UND intends to squander the value of the Fighting Sioux name. UND also specifically acknowledged the value of the Fighting Sioux name in its NCAA lawsuit.

I would again urge the university to do the right thing and halt the nickname replacement process, keep UND/North Dakota as the nickname in the interim, include the Sioux in any future voting process, and relinquish the Fighting Sioux name and logo to the tribes.

It’s time for UND to act like the flagship university that it is.

Brotherton is a 1980 UND graduate, the principal of the Brotherton Law Firm in Texas, and a member of the Missisquoi Abenaki in northern Vermont. He was the lead counsel in Lavonne Alberts et al vs. the University of North Dakota et al.