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UND nickname referendum timeframe narrows

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Another effort to get the Fighting Sioux nickname on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe ballot in September has failed to work out, giving nickname supporters much less time to meet their goals.

Archie Fool Bear, a tribal member who supports the nickname, said he was going to ask a Tribal Council member to put a nickname referendum up for a vote Tuesday, but the council finished its meeting too early and he was at work.

An earlier council had narrowly voted down a similar referendum, and he'd hoped to have better luck.

Next week, he said, he'll try to go through the committee process.

The committee process takes longer, and he thought he could bypass it by going directly to the council itself. Now, it doesn't appear the council will meet again until early September, he said.

That could be cutting it perilously close. The election is Sept. 30, and it may take a few weeks to advertise sample ballots and print ballots.

Fool Bear said he'll keep working, but he wished the University of North Dakota would confront the Tribal Council with evidence that, in 1969, some tribal elders had performed a sacred pipe ceremony granting the university use of the nickname.

This is unlikely to happen because UND no longer has control of the nickname issue. The State Board of Higher Education does, and it has indicated the ball is in the tribe's court.

Under a settlement with the NCAA, which considers Indian nicknames offensive, UND and the state has to have the support of the state's two Sioux tribes. The Spirit Lake tribe had earlier voted to support the nickname, so now the decision falls to Standing Rock, whose tribal council has not been supportive.

The state board has imposed an Oct. 1 deadline for tribal councils to issue resolutions of support and approve a 30-year agreement on UND's use of the nickname or the university will begin transitioning to a new one.