ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

NCAA Faces More Appeals

September 2, 2005 by ACTA

The NCAA's attempt to pressure schools to abandon Native American team nicknames and mascots has run into another wrinkle: The University of North Dakota, whose "Fighting Sioux" moniker earned it a position on the NCAA's list of schools that would be banished from post-season competition for having offensive team names, is filing an appeal.

The NCAA has said that appeals will be given greater weight if a school can show that it has tribal backing for its use of Native American names and mascots. But in the predictable manner of attempts to adjudicate speech, that edict is already being thoroughly complicated by circumstances. UND, for example, has received the official support of a local Chippewa tribe. Ken Davis, the chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band, issued a prepared statement yesterday declaring that UND has made "good use" of its "Fighting Sioux" nickname and its logo, which depicts an Indian brave in profile. Davis, a UND alumnus who founded the UND Indian Association while he was a student, said that UND has used its nickname "as an opportunity to promote awareness of the culture of all Indian nations, not just the Sioux. ... UND has made a commitment to use the nickname and logo in a positive manner not offensive to Indian people. I accept that commitment and their efforts." Can one tribe vouch for a school's respectful treatment of another's image? Does it matter?

To complicate matters further, the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation will be opposing UND's appeal, as will the Spirit Lake Tribal Council. The latter is reversing a position it took in 2000 supporting UND's nickname and logo on condition that UND subject all students to sensitivity training, rework its logo (which was designed by a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribe, and which is said to look less like a Sioux than like Chief Blackhawk, whose Musquakie tribe have historically been enemies of the Sioux), and send university officials to visit all North Dakota reservations. According to the Spirit Lake Tribal Council, UND did not comply with any of these conditions. Would the Spirit Lake Tribal Council lend UND its support if UND did agree to comply with these demands? Does it matter?

Phil Harmeson, senior associate to UND's president, says he has no knowledge of the conditions the Spirit Lake Tribal Council allegedly placed on its blessing. Regardless, he sees the issue as one of expressive freedom, and has indicated that UND is prepared to fight for its rights: "Whatever the (NCAA's ) decision is I am still of the opinion that this issue is not over," he said. "If they reverse the edict - we're still the Fighting Sioux and there are still people who don't want us to be. ... It's my hunch we will purse legal action to who really owns those words in the public domain."

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