New Twist in Controversy over School's Indian Logo

January 30, 2001

Source: Star Tribune

On January 30, 2001, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on a new development in the 30-year-old controversy over the University of North Dakota's Indian head logo and "Fighting Sioux" nickname. A few weeks ago "wealthy alumnus Ralph Engelstad threatened to walk away from a $100 million pledge...if the logo and nickname are dropped. The 70-year-old nickname has the backing of an overwhelming number of fans and alumni...Yet to many of the school's 350 American Indian students and those who support them in their fight to dump the nickname and logo, the image symbolizes degradation of a people and culture." Engelstad's threat to back out of his pledge came "shortly after Charles Kupchella, appointed school president in 1999, named a 16-member commission to examine the issue." After receiving Engelstad's letter members of the state board of higher education "voted unanimously to retain the nickname and logo...Critics contend that the school buckled under the pressure of a wealthy alumnus and forfeited credibility with many students and staff members."

Discrimination against Native American students persists. One student said that "'the nickname is the crux of the problem. As long as the nickname exists, it's OK for people to push Native Americans around.'...Around the United States, nearly half of the 3,000 elementary schools, high schools and colleges with Indian nicknames and mascots have dropped those symbols...[Kupchella] said the issue has been decided, and he will now attempt to find ways to improve relationships between the university and tribal governments in North Dakota...Lucy Ganje, a communications professor and member of the Campus Committee for Human Rights, said the committee is considering filing a civil-rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education over the issue."