12 For, 10 Against, 1 Abstain

These are the numbers from a historic Student Senate vote Sunday which asked for UND to discontinue use of the Fighting Sioux moniker

Tuesday, February 2, 1999
By Josh Roiland
Dakota Student Staff Writer

Amid a whirlwind week that saw the Fighting Sioux nickname debate have the spotlight once again thrust upon it, the UND Student Senate passed a resolution Sunday that gave their support for "discontinuing the use of the Sioux name as the nickname and logo of our University," according to Senate Resolution 18.

The vote did not come easy for the Senators, as they say through their longest meeting of the year. The Senate, in fact, voted to extend their meeting time by a half-hour in order to allow everyone present the opportunity to express their opinion. The two-and-a-half hour meeting brought the largest crowd to a senate meeting this year.

The crowd heard statements from noted guests such as Earl Strinden, executive vice president of the alumni association, Bob Boyd, vice president for student affairs and outreach services, along with speeches made by UND professors, members of B.R.I.D.G.E.S. (Building Roads Into Diverse Groups Empowering Students) and the Student Senate. Emotions ran high in the tension filled room as a number of speakers broke down and cried while talking to the body.

Strinden, a former North Dakota state representative and speaker of the house, began by discussion by reminding the Senators to "not take the tradition lightly." He said the Sioux nickname represents "courage, pride, winning victories and overcoming obstacles." He informed senators that he had received letters, from some of the 90,000 UND alumni, that did not want the name changed, saying some viewed it as "superficial political correctness."

Student Senator Sarah Wieland was the next to take the floor as she told senators that their fear of change was not a legitimate reason for not taking any action.

"It is impossible to discriminate respectfully," said Wieland, who represents UND's honors program, e-mailed every one of her constituents about the issue and held a forum last Friday to discuss the topic. She said her constituents expressed to her an overwhelming feeling that the resolution supporting the change should be passed. She encouraged her fellow senators to "vote with what we know in our hearts and what we know to be right."

Lines are drawn
Wieland's statement seemed to provide for a demarcation line between the senate as many senators, thereafter, debated whether what was in their heart was the same as what was in the best interests for their constituents.

Its core members Ira Taken Alive, Petra Fox, Chase Iron Eyes, and Lisa Loneflight once again represented the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. group. Taken Alive addresses the senators with rebuttals to many of Strinden's remarks saying that the political correctness was not the issue, but rather moral correctness.

"I realize there is a great tradition in the nickname," Taken Alive said, "But so was there a tradition in slavery."

Soon after Taken Alive spoke, heated, yet civil debates, among senators took place. Sen. Heather Eggert suggested that the issue was too important for just the senators to decide upon, and suggested it be put on the upcoming March election ticket for the entire student body to decide. Sen. Jason Bernhardt reiterated Eggert's suggested saying, "I have an obligation to vote what my constituents think."

Sen. Kent Leier seemed to sum up the thoughts of many senators by saying that it would be hard to look into the eyes of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people and tell them that he voted against the resolution. But he added that it would be harder still, to look his constituents in the eye and tell them he had voted against their wishes.

Reasons against it
A major factor that influenced the voting of many senators was the fact that changing the Sioux nickname would possibly result in both a loss of funding from alumni and also generate a large re-merchandising cost for the University.

Strinden initially brought the issue of funding up, and later Bernhardt brought up the point that other senators should not brush away issues such as money because they believe them to be superficial.

"I'd like to see anyone run a University without [money]," he said.

Student Body President Jonathan Sickler also addressed the senate and talked on many different fronts. One of which was the reality of financial ramifications.

"We can drop the logo and we can lose funding-- but does that held UND students?" Sickler asked.

It was the belief of many senators that if the logo were changed, alumni would stop donating money to their alma mater. Senator Bernhardt pointed out that one-third of UND's entire budget is made up of contributions from outside sources and if that money is lost, then it souls be taken out of such things as the Senate's unallocated account or such programs as the Student Activities Committee.

Numerous senators, such as Bernhardt and Berly Nelson brought up, that the Senate is a group of officials elected with the purpose of representing the students' interests and they should not disregard those interests with the intention of voting strictly from the heart.

Reasons for it
Throughout the marathon discussion that took place Sunday, more presentations were centered on why the change should be made. Senator Lars Teppo likened the use of the Sioux name to sexual harassment saying that the use of the name as a way of honoring American Indians is "unwelcomed" by many people, and for that reason it could be classified as racial harassment.

Among the myriad of speeches given on Sunday, Bill Bray, director of cultural resources on campus spoke clearly on the issue of funding. Bray, an alumnus of both Stanford and Dartmouth Universities (two institutions that have changed from Indian-derived logos), said that in the case of his two alma maters, funding actually went up.

In contrast from the staunch insistence of tradition and dollar signs that persisted throughout much of the discussion B.R.I.D.G.E.S. President Petra Fox brought the issue down to a personal level. Detailing a history of oppression against the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota tribes, Fox tearfully pleased with senators to pass the resolution asking them to "recognize that we are a part of this University and should enjoy basic human rights."

Fox did address the topic of political correctness telling the audience that is not the issue-- "It's called respect, and that's our basic human right."

Wieland brought up a key issue late in the discussion that garnered a lot of attention from other senators. She pointed out that it states in UND's mission statement that the University will not promote any form of discrimination on campus. She told senators that voting against the resolution was like voting against UND's mission.

Other alternatives
Presidents Sickler, who is against the nickname change, offered alternatives during the discussion for what he thought could be a respectful coexistence between UND and the American Indians of this state, while continuing to use the Fighting Sioux moniker.

"When I look at the Fighting Sioux logo I see a loot of possibilities," Sickler said, "If the name is looked upon from an educational standpoint."

Sickler hoped that more forums could be held in the same civil and polite manner where people on both sides of the issue could do education. If that could be achieved he say it as "a great opportunity to combine UND and the proud and strong culture of the Sioux tribe."

The Vote
When all points were said and all debating done, the matter went before a vote of the 23 senators present. The tally was too close to discern from a voice vote, so a division was called and each member was asked individually. The motion passed 12 for, 10 against, with one abstention.

The decision brought a roar from the audience, who earlier had respectfully applauded after every speaker presented. The passing of the resolution brought on a stir of emotions in both the senators and the audience where hugs were given, sobs were heard and tears shared.

 

The following is a breakdown of how UND Student Senators voted on Senate Resolution 18. SR18 supported a change of the Fighting Sioux nickname.

SenatorYahNayNo vote
Kelly Armstrong x 
Jason Bernhardt x 
Aaron Cesarix  
Marc Docken x 
Heather Eggert x 
Joy-el Erie x
Kristen Fuller x 
Carmen Galde x
Elizabeth Hansonx  
Tom Korsmox  
Kent Leier x 
Joel Loomis x 
Christopher Luebkex  
Berly Nelson x 
Tami Nelsonx  
Julie Passax  
Chaminda Prelisx  
Matt Rollerx  
Michael Scurryx  
Chris Semrau x 
Colleen Smithx  
Lars Teppox  
Ned Torson x 
Sarah Wielandx  
1. Senator Erie abstained.
2. Senator Galde was not present.