In a move to end a long-standing controversy, the North Dakota Board of Higher Education voted 8-0 Thursday to abandon the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo for the University of North Dakota's athletic teams if two Sioux tribes don't give their approval before October 1st.
In 2005, the NCAA ruled that the nickname was "hostile and abusive" to Native Americans and said the school would be barred from hosting postseason events if they didn't change the name. The Board of Higher Education sued in response to that ruling and the two sides settled in 2007 with the NCAA saying that they could keep the name if they received tribal approval before November 2010.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, gaining such approval "appears all but impossible given the reality of tribal divisions, the timing of elections on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and the extensive negotiations that would be necessary for such a long-term agreement." The decision to move up the name change may also have been spurred by UND's efforts to join the Summit League, an athletic conference that includes geographical rivals North Dakota State and South Dakota State. The league said they wouldn't consider UND for membership until the name controversy was settled.
The school may not consider the name disrespectful, and it certainly doesn't seem any less respectful than Fighting Irish, but letting the actual Sioux people decide its future is the most sensible path to follow. The same holds for the Florida State Seminoles, whose name is sanctioned by the Seminole tribe, and any other school that uses a nickname inspired by Native American tribes.
Assuming the name change takes effect, the school will have another issue to tackle. The Ralph Engelstad Arena, home to their hockey team, is jam-packed with the Fighting Sioux logo and isn't owned by the school. Engelstad went to UND and donated the money for the arena on condition that the nickname didn't change. That's why there are so many logos, which will be costly to remove if the school can even find a way to get the owners, a private foundation founded by Engelstad, to agree.