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Published December 27, 2011, 06:55 PM

Former Lt. Gov. Omdahl: 'Fighting Sioux' Petition Drives Should Stop

(WDAZ-TV) - The Spirit Lake Tribe's Committee for Understanding and Respect is gathering signatures for petitions that could put the Fighting Sioux nickname debate to a statewide vote.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

(WDAZ-TV) - The Spirit Lake Tribe's Committee for Understanding and Respect is gathering signatures for petitions that could put the Fighting Sioux nickname debate to a statewide vote.

But newspaper columnist and former North Dakota Lieutenant Governor Lloyd Omdahl thinks it's a bad idea and is calling for an end to the drive.

On Sunday, Omdahl's opinion column highlighted the ways the petition drive is threatening UND athletics. He says if either result in a statewide vote and pass, it would give UND a blackeye for a long time.

There are two petitions being circulated to try to save the University of Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname and logo

One is intended to reinstate a law requiring UND to keep it.

The second proposes to amend the state constitution to require UND use the Sioux name.

Omdahl says fans who are signing the petitions may not know how it could hurt the school.

"Now the people are going to have to know all of the consequences because they very well may get a chance to vote on this," Omdahl said.

The Committee for Understanding and Respect is behind the petition drive. Spokesman Frank Black Cloud says Omdahl and others are not seeing the whole picture.

"We find the words that were spoken by people who sit in respectful positions of the institutions knowingly and intentionally misled the citizens of this state into believing that continuing the use of the Fighting Sioux name and logo can harm the University and its athletics program," Black Cloud said.

Black Cloud says concerns about UND's conference affiliation have been over-hyped.

"UND has been a part of the Big Sky since October of 2010. So how is it going to harm them by going in there as the Fighting Sioux?" Black Cloud said.

Last June, the Big Sky Conference did express concern in two separate letters over the continued nickname debate.

"Conferences can change their positions and if this gets to be too much baggage for them to deal with, they will say 'we don't want you on our conference,'" Omdahl said.

If there is a statewide vote, Omdahl expects things to get expensive to those on both sides of the issue who are campaigning. And this could leave UND at a disadvantage because it couldn't spend state money to keep the name retired.

"Even though they can't spend money, they are going to be stewing. You can bet the athletic department is going to have to jockey around this whole problem until it's resolved," Omdahl said.

More than 13,000 people have to sign the first petition by February 7 and more than 27,000 people have to sign the second petition by August 8 to get those measures on the ballot.

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