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Chuck Haga, Forum Communications Co., Published April 06 2011

Attorney general won’t rule on Fighting Sioux meeting

GRAND FORKS – North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has declined an Associated Press request that he issue a legal opinion on whether the April 22 meeting involving North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education, state officials and the NCAA should be open to the public.

Since the meeting has not taken place, “there is no violation of the law to address,” Stenehjem said and The AP reported Tuesday.

The attorney general is among state leaders who have been invited to the meeting in Bismarck, along with Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the House and Senate majority leaders, as well as members of the state board.

University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley and Athletic Director Brian Faison also are expected to attend.

NCAA President Mark Emmert and Vice President Bernard Franklin will represent the athletics association.

The meeting was arranged following the Legislature’s adoption of a law requiring UND to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo. The NCAA since 2005 has campaigned to eliminate the use of American Indian names and imagery by member schools’ athletic teams.

UND sued the NCAA, and a 2007 settlement provided for a three-year window for the state board to win formal approval from two namesake tribes for continued use of the name and logo. That time expired last fall and the university was – at the board’s direction – was transitioning away from the Fighting Sioux name when the Legislature intervened.

Chuck Haga writes for the Grand Forks Herald