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Chuck Haga, Forum Communications Co., Published January 20 2011

Hearing to address nickname bills

Three bills seeking to preserve the University of North Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname will get a joint hearing next week before the state House Education Committee.

Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, who chairs the committee, said the bills will be scheduled at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Capitol’s Brynhild Haugland Room.

“I am hearing that the room will be packed with individuals on both sides of the issue,” Kelsch said.

Bills proposed by Rep. David Monson, R-Osnabrock, and Rep. Duane DeKrey, R-Tappen, would prohibit UND and the State Board of Higher Education from retiring the logos unless the Standing Rock Sioux tribe refuses permission through a tribal referendum.

That “negative option” approach would reverse the procedure outlined in a 2007 lawsuit settlement between UND and the NCAA, which stipulated that UND was to retire the nickname unless the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake tribes gave their OK.

Spirit Lake voters approved the continued use of Fighting Sioux by a 2-1 margin, but attempts by nickname proponents to arrange a vote at Standing Rock failed. The tribal council there eventually reaffirmed earlier council pronouncements opposing the nickname and declared the matter closed.

Meanwhile, David Gipp, a UND alum and president of United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, sent a letter Wednesday to all legislators urging them not to continue the nickname controversy. Gipp was born and raised on the Standing Rock Reservation and is a member of the Lakota-Nakota-Dakota Nation.

The nickname bills have some weight behind them, and sponsors say they have broad support from other legislators and the public.

Monson is a former House speaker and assistant majority leader. DeKrey is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The third bill, introduced by House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, would simply bar UND from dropping the nickname, and there is no reference to obtaining authorization from Standing Rock.

Haga is a writer for the Grand Forks Herald