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UND nickname lawsuit goes to judge

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news Perham, 56573
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

GRAND FORKS - The question of whether the state has the right to change the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname whenever it wants goes before a judge today in Devils Lake.

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Nickname supporters from the Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation say the state must abide by the timeline laid out in the state's settlement with the NCAA.

That settlement says UND has until Nov. 30, 2010, to win approval from both the state's Sioux tribes if it wants to keep the nickname, which the NCAA considers "hostile and abusive." The NCAA opposes nearly all American Indian nicknames.

The state, through Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, said the settlement does not forbid the state from retiring the nickname early.

Depending on how long it takes Judge Michael Sturdevant to decide and whether he sides with nickname supporters, this case could buy time for supporters to rally their forces in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to win tribal approval for the nickname.

It's for that reason the plaintiffs sued the state Board of Higher Education.

The board appeared on the verge of retiring the nickname more than a year ahead of the schedule laid out by the state settlement with the NCAA.

The hearing begins at 10 a.m. today at Ramsey County District Court in Devils Lake.

The state will ask the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing, in part, that nickname supporters have no standing. The settlement isn't meant to benefit them individually.

Nickname supporters say that it is. They argue that all Sioux people in the state benefit from the settlement and that for the state to change the deadline and make it impossible to win support would hurt them. The nickname, they say, makes people more aware of Sioux culture and history.

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