William Issaacson, President
Board of Higher Education
State of North Dakota
Bismarck, North Dakota
Dear President Isaacson and Members of the Board:
We were informed of the board vote to retain the current "Fighting Sioux" nickname and revised logo. To say the least, I was shocked and dismayed at the immense setback this has and will continue to cause American Indians in the continued fight to rid negative and stereotypical images which are a rooted part of racial discrimination.
It is even more unfortunate that such a vote serves only to short circuit the discussion, open debate and the representation of the issues in a fair and just manner. The decision serves no good purpose for an institution of academic learning and freedom. It is, at minimum, a myopic forecast of the future for the University of North Dakota (UND).
I am among those alumni who believed the current moniker was appropriate at one time, but have since urged a change. This is because the current moniker serves as an active inducement and approval of inappropriate behavior against American Indians. Indeed, there are specific, documented cases in the past years of verbal and physical acts of violence related to the issue of the moniker at UND. In order to provide multicultural education and the practice of good ethics of "tolerance" of others among our students and faculty, the logo must be changed.
The decision by the board overlooks the vote of tribal leaders (December 5, 2000) urging a name change, as well.
I, along with other alumni, fully recognize the decision to retain the Fighting Sioux symbol is largely based upon the moneyed donations of alumni who favor the same. We understand the fear of losing this support.
It is important, nevertheless, to fully consider the relationship and status of UND with other like and comparable institutions who serve American Indian students and communities, as well as the future relations over the next century. The current symbol is based on a 19th century mentality and hardly reflects a 21st century attitude toward growth, quality and equity, and meaningful service.
I was recently asked about the role of UND as a major player in American Indian policy and services. I have given my preliminary advice to President Charles Kupchella some months ago. As a past student and alumnus I have actively assisted in or actively supported a number of the special offerings for American Indians and the general student body, and currently serve as the chair of the INMED advisory board. More recently, my institution (United Tribes Technical College) has begun entering into a partnership with UND on American Indian Teacher Preparation.
I work with other higher education institutions across the nation in their roles and defining responsibility and service to the American Indian community. These include the University of Arizona, the University of Michigan, Harvard University and others.
The recent decision by the board of higher education actively serves to cloud the relationship and raises serious questions about the credibility of the North Dakota higher education system with American Indians American Indian tribes. Most certainly, it undercuts the role of the president at UND with regard to this and possibly other matters. The institutional integrity, particularly in the 21st century, is at grave riskčinsofar as future relations and attendance of American Indians at UND is concerned. It is a question our tribal governments and students must examine carefully in its reliance upon the university system and UND.
In my case, I intend to bring this question back to our tribal colleges and others. Under the current conditions, I can only note serious concern and the details to President Kupchella about whether a serious American Indian initiative can or should exist at UND. I am among those, who out of good conscience and ethics, must raise these questions.
I am aware and realize all of the rationalizations and justifications for the decision by the board and those who actively advocate for retention. It is obvious, however, the points of view of those who differ have fallen on the deaf ears of those who appeared to be listening, čknowing this view will change nothing in those minds.
David M. Gipp
Cc: President Charles Kupchella, UND
U.S. Office of Civil Rights
The North Central Association
President & Executive Director