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Fighting Sioux Nickname Timeline

06/12/12 06:16 PM ET  AP

Fighting Sioux

FARGO, N.D. — The history:

The University of North Dakota debuted the "Sioux" part of its nickname more than 80 years ago. UND's student newspaper on Oct. 3, 1930, hyped the change with a front-page headline reading: "'Sioux' replaces `Flickertail' as Captain of University Sports Teams." Flickertail, the previous nickname, referred to a type of ground gopher. Apparently, school officials decided the rodent didn't instill appropriate fear in opponents.

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But why "Sioux"?

Before the Dakotas became states, they were part of the Sioux Nation. As gold helped push the population farther west, UND was founded in 1883 in the Dakota Territory. (North Dakota became a state six years later.) The term Sioux isn't without its own history – it's part of an Ojibwa-French pejorative term meaning "snakes" – but in 1930 it was accepted as a nod to the area's Native American history. In a 1969 pipe ceremony on the UND campus, some representatives from the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake tribes reportedly gave the university permanent rights to use the nickname.

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And "Fighting"?

That part didn't come along until the 1960s, under longtime Athletic Information Director Lee Bohnet, who died in 1999. Patricia Bohnet, his daughter, wrote in May 2011 that she didn't know how her father would feel about the school losing its nickname, but she knew he would "be on the side of the student athletes."

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The hubbub:

The NCAA in 2005 declared UND's nickname – as well at least 18 other Indian-inspired nicknames at schools nationwide – as abusive and hostile to American Indians. Many schools swapped nicknames outright. Some got permission from namesake tribes to keep the nicknames. UND's battle is unlike any other, however, prompting lawsuits, tribal resolutions, state laws and, now, a public vote.

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Who wants the nickname to stay?

Some fans and alumni say the nickname isn't meant to be derogatory, and is respectful toward American Indians. It's part of the school's history, they say, and should be allowed to stand. Backers include some Native Americans. Members of the Spirit Lake Tribe sued the NCAA last November in an attempt to keep the nickname. The suit was filed on behalf of about 1,000 petitioners who say that losing the Sioux name means losing the ties between tribes and the university. A judge tossed out the federal suit in May.

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Who wants it gone?

There's no consensus on the matter among American Indians, even within Spirit Lake. Some agree with the NCAA and find the nickname offensive. A group of Native American students filed a federal lawsuit to stop its use. University officials also have made a recent push asking that voters allow the nickname to be retired. Even men's hockey coach Dave Hakstol, who had been a staunch nickname supporter, has said it's time to move on.

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What happens if the measure passes?

It means the end of the battle ... maybe. A group of nickname supporters has vowed to try to get the nickname built in to the state's constitution and spent the weekend gathering signatures to put the matter on November's ballot.

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And if it fails?

Then the fight definitely continues. The NCAA has made it clear it will not allow universities with what it deems as hostile or abusive nicknames or imagery to host playoff rounds. Athletics officials say that makes scheduling difficult. And some coaches say it's already affecting the teams' ability to recruit players.

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Bottom line:

Tuesday's election marks the first time that North Dakotans as a whole get to say what they want. But it might not be the last.

Also on HuffPost:

Offensive Mascots:
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  • Florida State University Seminoles

    The Seminoles are one of Florida's major Native American tribes, and the name given to FSU's football team. Fans discuss how their Seminoles are doing at the fan site named <a href="http://www.tomahawknation.com/" target="_hplink">Tomahawk Nation</a>. <strong>Correction</strong>: An earlier version of this slide said that all Native Americans in Florida are named Seminoles.

  • Rhode Island School Of Design

    The Nads. The Balls. It's not a name that is affiliated with any ethnic group, but it blazes a different path of <a href="http://topcollegesonline.org/10-most-controversial-college-mascots-ever/" target="_hplink">offensiveness</a>. The athletics at the school <a href="http://collegeprowler.com/rhode-island-school-of-design/athletics/" target="_hplink">aren't considered</a> to be a top priority for the most part, so what else would you expect? Go Nads! (<em>Heh</em>.)

  • University Of Illinois

    Meet Chief Illiniwek. You can <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCiSbWXo77M&loc=interstitialskip" target="_hplink">see him do his dance</a> here. This is the <em>former</em> mascot for the University of Illinois. There have been <a href="http://topcollegesonline.org/10-most-controversial-college-mascots-ever/" target="_hplink">protests against him</a> in the past, but when put to a vote, it turned out a majority of students supported keeping him as the mascot.

  • Stanford Indians

    Stanford University is now represented as the Cardinal, but there was a time when they were the Stanford Indians. <a href="http://www.nativetimes.com/archives/22/2193-around-the-campfire-racism-and-mascots" target="_hplink">Activist students pursued</a> getting the university to agree to changing the name, and they were successful in doing so in the 1970s.

  • Dartmouth Indians

    Dartmouth, like Stanford, was known as the Indians until students protested it, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dartmouth_Big_Green" target="_hplink">although it was unofficial</a>. Eventually school officials made it clear where they stood and denounced the name "Indians." Now they have another unofficial mascot: Keggy the Keg.

  • Washington Redskins

    Racism in mascots is not just a plague afflicting college sports. A number of professional teams -- Blackhawks, Braves, Redskins, Indians -- have mascots that some consider to be derogatory toward Native Americans. Recently, Jim Vance, anchor at Washington, D.C.'s NBC affiliate, did some <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/27/you-know-whats-linsane-th_n_1304733.html" target="_hplink">commentary on what he considered</a> "Linsane" -- namely, the Washington NFL team's name: <blockquote>A few days ago, a couple guys at ESPN got in a boatload of trouble when they got too cute with the Jeremy Lin phenomenon. The puns were bad enough, but they used a racial slur to describe one of Lin's lesser performances for the New York Knicks. A lot of people found that offensive, and probably racist, and they're probably right. What I find curious is how some people I've talked to are offended by a derogatory term for Asians, but not by the word 'Redskin.' Folks, 'Redskins' is not a term of endearment, any more than the N word or any other racial or ethnic slur. From its inception and inclusion in our language, it was meant to be an insult. </blockquote>

  • Corner Canyon High School

    Sometimes a mascot can be offensive before it even becomes a mascot. That was the case with Corner Canyon High School, when the school wanted to make their mascot the Cougars, and it was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/20/cougar-mascot-vetoed-for-_n_1218779.html" target="_hplink">deemed inappropriate</a> and "offensive to women."

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Filed by Rebecca Harrington  |