State Judge Dismisses Suit against N.D. Board of Education re: Fighting Sioux

From the Grand Forks Herald:

A district court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education that sought to prevent the body from retiring the University of North Dakota’s controversial nickname.

Judge Michael G. Sturdevant said in his decision that he would’ve preferred otherwise, but he can see no legal reason that the state board could not change the nickname. Nevertheless, he rapped the board for its failure to fight hard to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname.

The higher education board had earlier set an Oct. 31 deadline for both Sioux tribes in the state to approve the nickname and, at its last meeting in November, did not extend the deadline. Because of the litigation, though, the board never formally instructed UND to retire the nickname.

Nickname supporters in the Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation, which approved the nickname by a 67 percent vote, sued shortly before the November meeting seeking to buy time for members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to rally for a similar vote.

A settlement between the state and the NCAA, which considers American Indian nicknames offensive, requires both tribes to approve UND’s nickname by Nov. 30. The state board sought early approval — a year ahead of that deadline — because UND needs that or retirement of the nickname to apply to the Summit League athletic conference.

Judge Sturdevant said the settlement does not require the board to keep the nickname until the deadline, as nickname supporters allege, and that the board does have a constitutional authority to run state universities as it pleases, as the state has argued.