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Published June 16, 2012, 04:22 PM

UND ties up loose ends as nickname is retired

Issues include keeping logo copyright, honoring history and, in time, adopting new nickname
The retirement was largely completed before a statewide petition forced the university to stop. Now, with the support of voters Tuesday, it can finish what it started.

By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald

UND’s transition from the Fighting Sioux nickname was largely completed before the filing of referral petitions brought the name and logo back, but several loose ends remain now that state voters have given the university the authority to move on.

One loose end will take time. The legislation adopted in November, affirmed by state voters in Tuesday’s primary election, requires UND to wait until 2015 to adopt a new nickname.

Other questions likely will be resolved sooner, including how best to preserve and display documents and artifacts from the Sioux era, from adoption of the name in 1930 to the present. A “history and traditions” panel had worked on that until the transition was suspended.

The university had developed a timeline for changing licensing agreements with manufacturers and vendors of Fighting Sioux clothing and other merchandise, and those will be redrafted, said Peter Johnson, a spokesman for UND President Robert Kelley.

As long as retail outlets have the Fighting Sioux gear in stock, it can be sold, Johnson said.

UND also must protect its copyright on the logo designed by North Dakota artist Ben Brien, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Protection of the copyright is required by the 2007 settlement with the NCAA.

“You want to protect the integrity of your historical branding,” Johnson said. “That would keep anyone from using it in ways we’d prefer it not be used.”

Keeping control of the copyright will require periodic use, and that has to involve commerce, such as the occasional offering for sale of commemorative shirts or caps, for example as part of a team reunion.

“We’ve certainly had enough championship teams that we could almost do an annual championship reunion,” Johnson said, though he emphasized that no such decisions or plans have been made.

Honoring history

Kelley appointed two transition committees in May 2010, shortly after the State Board of Higher Education directed him to begin retirement of the nickname and logo.

One group was to plan for “honoring the history and traditions of the Sioux name and logo,” and the other was to engage students, faculty, alumni and others to make sure the transition was done openly.

Kelley said then that a potential third committee would “help us think through the process of selecting a new name and logo,” but that group was never formed.

Johnson said last week that Kelley “has no plans at this time” to revive the transition committees or form new ones, but a group will meet soon to check into the copyright issue.

Kelley also has reports and recommendations from the history and traditions committee, Johnson said, and “will decide what we do or don’t implement of those recommendations.”

One recommendation was to eliminate all athletic and non-athletic uses of the Sioux name and logo, from team uniforms and the names of fan organizations to the names of the campus laundry, parachute club, the Fighting Sioux ROTC detachment and the “Sioux Strong” breast cancer group.

The history panel hired consultants and queried UND archivists about identifying, collecting and displaying items that would tell the story of the Sioux years, including the controversies.

The group identified documents, publications, equipment and clothing, promotional materials, game highlight videos and interviews, photographs, trophies, pennants and other memorabilia.

Another loose end: the 2007 settlement’s requirements for changes in Sioux imagery at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The one concession state and university leaders received from the NCAA at their August 2011 meeting in Indianapolis was the association’s agreement to consider easing the requirements.


Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102, (800) 477-6572, ext. 1102 or chaga@gfherald.com.

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