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University of North Dakota Votes on New Nickname This Week

The University of North Dakota opened voting yesterday morning for a select group of stakeholders regarding its new nickname.

The University of North Dakota opened voting yesterday for a select group of stakeholders regarding its new nickname, yet there’s already a lawsuit to put a halt to the vote.

The Jamestown Sun reports that Lavonne Alberts, Spirit Lake Sioux, and William Le Caine, Wood Mountain Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux, signed their names to a lawsuit with the hopes of stopping the vote.

The vote, which opened this morning, is only available to a select group of “stakeholders,” who should have received an email last week with a link to the online voting process, according to a press release the school sent yesterday morning. Voting will close at 11:59 p.m. CST on October 23.

According to the Jamestown Sun, legal documents say the basis for the lawsuit is that there were no tribal representatives present during the planning process, nor are any tribal members in the voting population.

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"What I was hearing from folks was that their voices weren't being heard on the Fighting Sioux issue, but there was a statewide vote and the majority of North Dakota voted we had to change it," United Tribes Technical College President Leander McDonald, Spirit Lake Sioux, told the Jamestown Sun. "I think the opportunity for everyone's voice to be heard was at that time, and we have to move forward from that."

The previous nickname, the “Fighting Sioux,” was officially retired in 2012 after a seven-year fight following the 2005 NCAA decision to do away with tribal mascots and nicknames. Florida State University is the single exclusion to the ruling due to an agreement with the Seminole Nation of Florida.

The University of North Dakota came under renewed fire in 2014 after students were photographed at an event wearing t-shirts with the moniker “Siouxper Drunk” printed above an image of a headdress-clad Native American man with a beer funnel.

Voters may choose their favorite of five new nicknames: the Fighting Hawks, Nodaks, North Stars, Roughriders or Sundogs. More than 50 percent of the vote is needed for a win – if none of the proposed nicknames win by a majority, a runoff between the top two will be held.

CORRECTION: The lawsuit, filed Thursday in district court in Grand Forks, opposes the current vote because it does not include members of the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake tribes that are not affiliated with the university. Conversely, the group of “stakeholders” allowed to vote includes more than 80,000 individuals affiliated with the University of North Dakota – current students, faculty and staff, alumni and donors, including those of whom are Native American.