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Published July 20, 2011, 04:23 PM

Fighting Sioux Nickname Meeting Postponed

A Monday meeting between state and NCAA officials about the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname has been delayed because it would conflict with the funeral of Senate majority leader Bob Stenehjem.

By: Dale Wetzel, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Monday meeting between state and NCAA officials about the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname has been delayed because it would conflict with the funeral of Senate majority leader Bob Stenehjem.

Stenehjem, 59, a Bismarck Republican, died earlier this week when the SUV he was driving during a fishing trip went off the road and rolled over several times near Soldotna, Alaska.

Grant Shaft, president of the state Board of Higher Education, said Wednesday that NCAA officials had agreed to postpone the meeting, and he hoped it could be rescheduled by mid-August.

"We've asked them to provide us with another set of available dates, and I should get those in a day or two," Shaft said.

UND faces NCAA sanctions if it continues using its Fighting Sioux nickname and a logo depicting an American Indian warrior's profile after Aug. 15, when the university earlier had agreed to stop using them. The NCAA considers the nickname and logo hostile to American Indians.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a bill, sponsored by Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, that requires UND to continue using the nickname and logo. Carlson has pressed for the meeting with NCAA officials to discuss whether the association would be willing to change its policy in UND's case, something an association spokesman has insisted will not happen.

Stenehjem had planned to attend the meeting, along with Carlson, Shaft, Gov. Jack Dalrymple, UND President Robert Kelley, school athletics director Brian Faison and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, the late majority leader's brother.

Stenehjem's funeral will be at 1 p.m. Monday at Bismarck State College's National Energy Center of Excellence on the BSC campus, said Mike Nathe, owner of the Bismarck Funeral Home, which is handling arrangements.

Nathe is a Republican state House member, and he and Bob Stenehjem both represent District 30, which includes parts of south Bismarck, the city of Lincoln and rural Burleigh County.

Stenehjem's family is hosting a two-hour visitation starting at 3 p.m. Sunday in the North Dakota Senate chambers in the state Capitol. Stenehjem was first elected to the state Senate in 1992 and had served as majority leader since April 2001.

The funeral arrangements were delayed because of the need for an autopsy on his body, which was completed Wednesday morning in Anchorage, Alaska.

Greg Wilkinson, a spokesman for Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services, said the procedure took about 90 minutes. A report is pending and its conclusions will not be made public unless the family or the investigating police agency in Alaska agree, Wilkinson said.

A sample of Stenehjem's blood was drawn to check for alcohol and drugs, which Wilkinson said was standard procedure in a fatal accident. An Alaska State Troopers investigation has said alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the crash.

Stenehjem's son, Robert W. Stenehjem Jr., 34, and his son, Daniel Stenehjem, 11, were riding in the SUV, as was Keith Johnson, 34, of Hinckley, Minn.

Bob Stenehjem, Robert Stenehjem and Johnson were not wearing seat belts and were thrown from the SUV, police said. Daniel Stenehjem, who was wearing his seat belt, was not hurt.

Robert Stenehjem suffered a broken right wrist, shoulder and facial injuries and abrasions. He was released from a Soldotna hospital Wednesday morning, hospital spokeswoman Bonnie Nichols said.

Johnson was listed in serious condition Wednesday in an Anchorage hospital, spokeswoman Crystal Bailey said.

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