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Published August 07, 2012, 12:51 PM

Nickname Vote Delayed Until 2014

Diehard supporters of UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname say they continue collecting signatures to force another statewide vote on the issue, but they won’t file the signatures until December — meaning the initiated measure would appear on the ballot in June 2014.

Diehard supporters of UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname say they continue collecting signatures to force another statewide vote on the issue, but they won’t file the signatures until December — meaning the initiated measure would appear on the ballot in June 2014.

Sean M. Johnson, Bismarck, spokesman for the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe’s Committee for Understanding and Respect, said the committee has until Dec. 12 to turn in the required 27,000 signatures.

The committee initially had aimed at filing its petition with Secretary of State Al Jaeger this week to get the initiated measure on the November general election ballot.

“Fighting Sioux supporters chose to wait in light of several other initiated measures being submitted for voter consideration on the November 2012 ballot,” Johnson said in a statement released today.

“Quite simply, we did not want our issue grouped in with several of the others which will be up in November,” he stated, “issues that were not apparent when we first started our efforts.”

Johnson stated that supporters “are also pursuing other supporting efforts in an attempt to ensure the University of North Dakota does not exterminate the traditions and heritage that accompanied the positive use of the Fighting Sioux name and symbol for over 80 years.”

In an interview today, Johnson said the delay in filing “is not a question of having the necessary signatures” by Wednesday’s filing deadline for getting on the November general election ballot.

“The petition drive is going very well,” he said. “I don’t have the exact count, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re close — or even over.”

But he said the committee members were concerned about dropping the nickname fight into a mix of other “very contentious issues” on the November ballot, including tobacco, marijuana and animal protection.

“And the other things we want to do, we need time to focus on those, too,” he said. “We’re all volunteers here. We don’t have a quarter million dollars to hire agencies to do our work for us.”

The financial reference was to the $250,000 raised through donations by the UND Alumni Association and Foundation to fight the June primary battle over the nickname. State voters overwhelmingly sided with the association and voted to allow UND to retire the name and logo.

Asked why the committee believes, in light of the lopsided vote in June, another vote would give a different result, Johnson said “it’s not the same issue.”

“This is about trying to preserve the tradition, the honor that UND has benefitted from by using the name,” he said. “The path they (UND and the State Board of Higher Education) are on right now is to exterminate it.”

He said the initiated measure would declare that UND athletics teams are to be known as the Fighting Sioux, but “would not require them to actually use the name and logo,” which Johnson said would remove the cloud of potential NCAA sanctions.

“UND’s football team has not used the name and logo (on uniforms) in ages,” he said, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

He also said the committee believes that “people will better understand” the issue in June 2014.

“We feel that once people get more information and they see there is no harm that could come from this measure, they would feel differently,” Johnson said.

“When we did a ‘post mortem’ on the referendum, we saw that people were confused despite our best efforts. We can’t take that back, and we’re not saying we should vote over. But you can assume the language will be clearer this time.”

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