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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Fighting Sioux forever

Posted 11/18/14 (Tue)

It’s good to see so many people working together diplomatically to come up with a nickname for UND’s sports teams.

Recent meetings in Grand Forks have included athletes, student government, professors, community members and most of all alumni.

There remains considerable dissent and most likely always will, regarding the mandate to drop the Fighting Sioux name and logo.

Oh no! Did I say Fighting Sioux? I guess it’s all because the first thing I thought of when I woke up today was, “I think I’m going to be hostile and abusive today.”

I don’t need to “beat the dead horse,” but everyone should have been treated the same, and weren’t. I think everyone of us who attended UND would have been far more agreeable to this, had the other universities, Florida State, Utah and Central Michigan, been treated the same.

But if you think about the money that Florida State University’s Seminole football team generates alone, you know the NCAA is going to let the university call the shots.

Problem is, the UND hockey team has been generating revenue for nearly 60 years, but apparently it isn’t enough to satisfy the price tag the NCAA placed on teams keeping their names.

Because I went to school at UND in the 1980s and worked at the student newspaper, I got involved with covering some of the protests then regarding the Fighting Sioux.

Everybody has a right to their opinion and has a right to assemble, but it seemed like such a futile effort since there was just a small group of Indian students who were the protestors, most of whom were from tribes in other states.

Some years ago I received a Fighting Sioux hockey jersey as a gift. I’ve worn it on occasion but the thing to note is that I’ve worn it on two Indian reservations and purposely attended events with large numbers of people to see what the reaction might be.

Not a soul said a word to me. Nothing.

When my National Guard unit was mobilized, that Fighting Sioux jersey was placed above my bunk in the barracks and it stayed there until one of our Soldiers from Ohio decided I would prefer a Buckeyes football jersey. The UND jersey was back up within 24 hours.

But what’s done is done and we have to move on and that’s why it’s good to see all these people talking about a new nickname.

The caveat is that it will need to please a lot of people and be a name that will endure for generations.

We’ve heard names like the Flickertails, the Bombers, the Indians, the Eskimos and God forbid, the Prairie Chickens.

There’s a reason this process is taking several years. You can’t just name a franchise with a word that just pops into your head. It takes time, research, analysis, regurgiation, take it to the people and finally decide.

The first big step in this endeavor was with UND being admitted to the Big Sky Conference in all sports, except hockey.

That was huge because it told all of us who have any ties to UND that a major organization has been watching this development and believes that through it all, UND is going to be a worthy member of the Big Sky for a long time.

Another thing to keep in mind is there are no doubt a lot of UND alumni living in California communities in which the Big Sky has a presence. There are three California schools in the Big Sky, and the input of North Dakota natives living there is likewise important. From a Cal-Poly, Cal-Davis or Sacramento State point of view, what would a good name be?

The Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League just finished their inaugural season.

Like UND, naming the team has been a three-year process culminating in fans providing their input. They finally arrived at the Redblacks to bring meaning to the red and black plaid shirts the stereotypical lumberjack wears. It is also a spinoff of a highly successful rugby team in Auckland, New Zealand called the All Blacks.

Another CFL team, the Baltimore Colts, had to give up their name because the NFL owns the rights to a former Baltimore Colts team. So, for a time, the team was known as the Baltimore CFLers. Say it to yourself and think of how cheesy that is. We don’t want UND to wind up in a situation like that.

Something in nature, something in history, something with the same team colors, something in North Dakota that is important to a lot of people should be considered.

The NCAA can strip the school of its name, but if I live to be 100, it will always be Fighting Sioux.