Fighting Sioux Cannot Sue: Federal Court Throws Out Tribe’s Challenge Of NCAA Rule

We previously discussed the controversy over the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname. The NCAA has banned the use of such tribal names and members of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe and Standing Rock Sioux sued to try to restore the use of the name — something they find not insulting but complimentary to their tribe. I have been critical of the NCAA rule. A federal court has now thrown out the lawsuit over the use of the team’s name over standing.

The NCAA filed a motion in December to dismiss the lawsuit on standing grounds. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson, a graduate of the UND law school, agreed with the NCAA and dismissed the lawsuit.

UND had received approval from Spirit Lake, but the NCAA still barred its use. As discussed earlier, the North Dakota Legislature passed a bill in early 2011 requiring UND to use the nickname and Indian head logo. However, they repealed the law when NCAA officials threatened sanctions.

Notably, the plaintiffs argued that a 1969 pipe ceremony held on the UND campus with a delegation from Standing Rock and at least one representative from Spirit Lake made the use of the name completely permissible even under NCAA rules. However, Erickson said that “[w]hile the court respects the sanctity and solemnity that tribal traditions richly deserve, the 1969 pipe ceremony has no legal significance on the facts as pled by the committee.”

The decision on standing does not necessarily bar the issue from being raised by the university and other parties in the future, though Erickson expressed skepticism on the merits of the claims by these litigants even if standing were recognized.

Source: ESPN

16 thoughts on “Fighting Sioux Cannot Sue: Federal Court Throws Out Tribe’s Challenge Of NCAA Rule

  1. The tribe needs to visit the headquarters of the NCAA and offer them a peace pipe. This actually gets into States Rights. You hear the phrase from RepubliCons. It is all part of the Southern Strategy to get the Redneck White vote. It is Code. The State of North Dakota has the right to name its state run schools and no all white no Indians allowed group like the NCAA should be able to dictate. This is States Rights. I know its confusing. Its kind of like when a lynch mob gets together and lynches some guy and then the federal government says they are going to investigate. States Rights! guys like Orville Faubus and Ricky Perry exclaim. Well, an Indian Nation is sovereign too. They have State rights. So several oxes are gored here by the NCAA. Perhaps sports should not be run by national or federal agencies. If I was a fighting Sioux I would show up at the next game with my war paint, bow and arrows and request the correct uniform on the floor of the basketball game.

  2. It isn’t about state rights. It is about an organization making its own rules. There are quite a few rules that members must agree to abide by. This is one of them. I personally don’t think it is a reasonable rule but then again I don’t run or own the organization.

    They can petition for a rule change via whatever methods the organization allows. Hell they could try and start up a different organization, an “American Collegiate Athletic Association or whatever.

    What they shouldn’t be able to do is dictate which rules they will follow of the organization they choose to be a part of

  3. I am confused. The Tribes want the name that depicts them as the “Fighting Sioux” for the mascot? I smell a payoff to get the tribes to play ball with the state. No evidence, just a gut feeling.

  4. This situation is different from most. It was Native tribes that objected to the use of their names by the teams, as I understand it, mostly because they were being objectified and misrepresented. In this case, the school and the tribe are working together.

    The NCAA is one powerful group, bullying a state legislature.

    The judge left an out: “[w]hile the court respects the sanctity and solemnity that tribal traditions richly deserve, the 1969 pipe ceremony has no legal significance on the facts AS PLED BY THE COMMITTEE.”

  5. I am confused. The Tribes want the name that depicts them as the “Fighting Sioux” for the mascot? I smell a payoff to get the tribes to play ball with the state. No evidence, just a gut feeling.

    Of course this is the case. It is standard to pay the tribe.

    The bigger problem is the NCAA does grant waivers to their rules to some colleges. FSU’s Seminoles being one example

  6. “I am confused. The Tribes want the name that depicts them as the “Fighting Sioux” for the mascot? I smell a payoff to get the tribes to play ball with the state. No evidence, just a gut feeling.”

    I am a UND alumni having graduated in 2003 and 2007.

    The University of North Dakota is not in the business of paying off the Tribes in order to secure their vote.

    For the most part, tribal members of the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock tribe have been vocally in favor of keeping the MONIKER. I emphasize moniker as there is not Fighting Sioux ‘Mascot’, there is not and has never been any individual dressing up in costume (funny mascot style costume or traditional native dress costume) for any athletic or other University event.

    The original NCAA ruling stated that the University must secure permission from the two Tribes by a certain date (I believe August of 2010) and the Spirit Lake Tribe voted almost immediately to support the name by an overwhelming 2/3 majority. The Standing Rock tribe, unfortunately, was being run by a tribal commission which did not support the moniker, even though polls clearly show the tribal members were in support of the moniker.

    As the deadline approached a new tribal commission chair was voted in, running mainly on the premise that he was pro-Sioux moniker. As soon as he took office there was maybe a month before the NCAA deadline passed and he never instituted a tribal referendum to vote on the issue, stating that the commission had more important issues to deal with.

    Since the deadline, there has been all kinds of legal wrangling and state representative attempts to force the University to continue using the moniker. Part of this is the insistance by a large number of Standing Rock Tribal members that the 1969 peace pipe ceremony granted the University the right to use the moniker in perpetuity. To these Sioux people, the peace pipe ceremony is as sacred as anything and many feel as if they’re soveriegnty is being trampled on by the fact that the ceremony is not being recognized. They are also upset that their tribe has not been allowed to vote (polls show a similar 2/3rds in favor of the moniker.)

    From those whom I have spoken with, they believe that the University has always done a good job of honoring the traditions of the Sioux people and has only provided positive impacts on their tribes. Many feel that by forcing the University to drop the name, they are losing yet another source of recognition for their people. They feel that, once again, their voice is being lost to the interest of the White Man.

    Regardless of how the moniker issue settles. The University’s commitment to the Native American people of North Dakota will remain firm. A new multi-million dollar Native American center was built as I was finishing up my graduate work. Native Americans receive free schooling. The Tribes received support in myriad ways. The annual Time Out Wassipi is one of the largest ‘pow-wows’ in the upper mid-west.

    The University of North Dakota will always honor the traditions of Native Americans and while the school provides much to the tribes, there will never be a payment to use to name.

    Unlike what the NCAA continues to allow schools such as Florida State, Illinois, Utah, and many others to do. Cut a check to secure permission.

    But the bottom line is that in a effort by the NCAA to supposedly dispose of discrimination (calling the moniker ‘Hostile and Abusive’) they are trampling all over the rights of the people they are supposedly trying to protect, while at the same time letting other ‘major’ universities use similar monikers and mascots.

  7. The NCAA is telling states that they cannot name their teams after Indian tribes. The tribe needs to talk to the NAACP for some advice.

  8. Just another decision by a non-American Indian against American Indians. My Tribe had a white (for want of another word) judge who ruled in the early 1900’s that our Tribe did not exist. Thus, all our tribal lands were taken away. It took us 90 years to right that wrong. But, there are generation of my ancestors who would look in the mirror and think, “I don’t exist, then what is that reflection?”

  9. I have the misfortune of living & working around a lot of refuges from North Dakota & the whine from JC is actually one of the more polite and rational sounding ones you get from an NDU grad on the subject. I also work with a couple of actual Sioux and they are not so warm and fuzzy on the issue on MONIKERs. But there is the problem both sides have, in a nation of many who is one to speak for all? I’m sure we can find native Americans on all sides of this, or almost any issue, they are not a monolith. I’d be a lot more sympathetic if the rants I have heard were no so deeply dismissive of native culture and diverse opinions.

    As for the boo-hoo about other schools allowed to keep their Indian mascots? I know UF pays an annual royalty to the Seminole tribe and even then are removing the native character and replacing it with the pony ridden at games.

  10. JCTheBigTree

    You misunderstood rafflaw’s and jeff’s comment. Schools that are using a tribe’s name do not pay the tribes to “buy their vote”. They pay the tribe to use their name. Nothing wrong with that. If they called themselves the fighting J_Turley’s they would pay Mr Turley for using his name, his trademark if you will

  11. I find the name the Fighting Irish offensive. That should be banned.

    The USC Trojans is offensive to greeks and UNC Tar Heels is offensive to hard working tobacco farmers.

    And dont get me started about the Duke Blue Devils and the Catholic church!

  12. As an Irishman I am sooooo offended by the “Fighting Irish” name and the Boston “Celtics”. Those monikers should be changed immediately.

  13. I knew a Sioux Indian guy from South Dakota when I was in the navy. I said what are you going to do when you get out of the navy. He said I’m going back to the reservation. I said what are you going to do when you get there? He said I don’t know. Let them use whatever name they want.

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