NYTs: Univ. of North Dakota to Change Nickname

From the NYTs:

North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education has approved a schedule for discarding the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo if two Sioux tribes hold firm in their desire to have them dumped. The timeline directs William Goetz, the university system’s chancellor, to form a committee to discuss the issue with the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake Sioux tribes. The panel should meet at least twice with Sioux leaders in 2009. If there is no agreement, the timeline says, the university should begin planning in January 2010 to retire the nickname and logo.

NCAA Press Release on Fighting Sioux Settlement

From the NCAA website (H/T Indianz):

NCAA Statement on Settlement of University of North Dakota Mascot Lawsuit


Monday, November 19, 2007


Bob Williams

Managing Director of Public and Media Relations



INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA recognizes the University of North Dakota’s many programs and outreach services to the Native American community and surrounding areas.  The University of North Dakota is a national leader in offering educational programs to Native Americans.

The University has indicated that it intends to use the current name and logo with the utmost respect and dignity, and only for so long as it may do so with the support of the Native American community.  The NCAA does not dispute UND’s sincerity in this regard.

The NCAA believes, as a general proposition, that the use of Native American names and imagery can create a hostile or abusive environment in collegiate athletics.  However, the NCAA did not make any other findings about the environment on UND’s campus.  The NCAA also acknowledges that reasonable people can disagree about the propriety of Native American imagery in athletics.  The NCAA believes that the time has come to retire Native American imagery in college sports.

Wisconsin Badgers Now to Play Schools with Indian Names & Mascots

From the Badger Herald: “The University of Wisconsin will now be able to schedule games against teams with American Indian symbols and names after the Faculty Senate approved a new policy regarding athletic competitions Monday.

“According to the new policy, UW may schedule competitions with schools that are not on the NCAA list of colleges and universities subject to restrictions.

“The Badgers are now permitted to play schools including Central Michigan University, Florida State University, Mississippi College and the University of Utah — all of which have American Indian names, because tribes have endorsed the use of their names and, therefore, the universities are not subject to NCAA restrictions.

“American Indian Student Academic Services Coordinator, Aaron Bird-Bear said UW recently updated its mascot policy to reflect the 2005 NCAA mandate reviewing American Indian mascots in higher education.

“Bird-Bear said UW’s initial American Indian mascot policy was issued 12 years prior to the NCAA’s 2005 mascot review.”

Judge in the UND v. NCAA Case Once Belonged to Fighting Sioux Pep Club

According to Indianz.com: ” As a student at UND in the 1960s, Judge Lawrence Jahnke belonged to the all-male Golden Feather pep club. The group created the controversial “Sammy the Sioux” mascot that depicted an Indian in a cartoonish fashion. The group also chose the “Indian maiden” outfits worn by UND cheerleaders.”

The relevant section of the N.D. Code of Judicial Conduct (along with the official commentary) is here:

E. Disqualification.

(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where:


Under this rule, a judge is disqualified whenever the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, regardless whether any of the specific rules in Section 3E(1) apply. For example, if a judge were in the process of negotiating for employment with a law firm, the judge would be disqualified from any matters in which that law firm appeared, unless the disqualification was waived by the parties after disclosure by the judge.

A judge should disclose on the record information that the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might consider relevant to the question of disqualification, even if the judge believes there is no real basis for disqualification.

By decisional law, the rule of necessity may override the rule of disqualification. For example, a judge might be required to participate in judicial review of a judicial salary statute, or might be the only judge available in a matter requiring immediate judicial action, such as a hearing on probable cause or a temporary restraining order. In the latter case, the judge must disclose on the record the basis for possible disqualification and use reasonable efforts to transfer the matter to another judge as soon as practicable.

(a) the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer, or personal knowledge* of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceedings;

N.D. Code Judicial Conduct Canon 3.

Although Judge Jahnke denies it, it seems clear that his impartiality in this matter be reasonably questioned. His support of an even more offensive logo (Sammy), not to mention Indian maiden cheerleader uniforms, in his college days suggests that he would not find the current logo offensive. He has already exercised a great deal of discretion in granting a preliminary injunction in favor of UND. But to be fair, North Dakota is a small state. And, if my recollection is accurate, four of the five ND Sup. Ct. justices are UND grads. My guess is that a motion to recuse would be pointless. 

I’m still trying to figure out why the NCAA never asked to remove the case to federal court. I suppose that’s why I’m not a trial litigator.

More coverage from Indianz:

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Jahnke: Golden Feather membership not relevant (The Grand Forks Herald 10/25)
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Judge’s Sioux ties run deep (The Fargo Forum 10/24)
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Editorial: Judge errs in sealing Sioux files (The Fargo Forum 10/24)