Fighting Sioux Nickname On North Dakota Legislative Agenda

In between discussions over flood protection, redistricting and housing, the North Dakota state legislature will dedicate part of next week's special session to one particularly heated issue: the nickname of the University of North Dakota sports teams.

The legislature is expected to pass -- and Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple is expected to sign -- a law allowing for the retirement of the Fighting Sioux nickname in order to prevent NCAA sanctions. The NCAA has said the nickname and school sports logo are offensive.

The legislature had passed a law in the spring, signed by Dalrymple, stripping the state Board of Higher Education of the power to repeal the nickname.

"[The governor] will urge the legislature to pass a bill that returns that decision back to the state Board of Higher Education," said Jeff Zent, Dalrymple's spokesman.

State Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor (D-Towner) confirmed that the legislature will likely pass the bill in order to avoid NCAA sanctions. UND officials have not yet decided on a new name.

The original bill passed as the Board of Higher Education was planning to take away the nickname. UND is now attempting to join the Big Sky Conference, which said it would not accept the school as part of the conference as long as it called itself the Fighting Sioux.

The NCAA has asked college athletic programs that have Native American-related nicknames to change the names. The Spirit Lake tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court in North Dakota this week to prevent the changing of the nickname, because they felt they were being discriminated against.

Taylor said that he wishes the issue was not on the legislative agenda at all.

"We've got people whose homes have been destroyed," he said. "[But] there will be a large amount of debate over the logo at UND."