North Dakota votes to drop nickname

North Dakotans on Tuesday voted in favor of dropping the University of North Dakota’s "Fighting Sioux" nickname — a decades-old moniker considered offensive by some and fiercely supported by others.

Approximately 60 percent of the votes were in favor of retiring the name, The Globe and Mail reported.

Tuesday’s vote was the first time the people of North Dakota had been able to have a direct say on the issue, but despite the outcome, the issue still is not dead. A Sioux group is trying to get a state constitutional amendment requiring the school to keep the nickname on a ballot soon, The Wall Street Journal reported.

For many at the university itself, the battle had become a distraction that was hurting the athletic program as a growing number of teams refused to play the school.

"There’s definite consensus now that in order for us to move forward, the nickname and logo need to be retired," said athletic director Brian Faison.

First adopted in 1930, the Sioux nickname was given ceremonial sanction in 1969 at a Sioux pipe ceremony and has since been at the center of petitions, lawsuits, sanctions, an official retirement of the logo and, subsequently, an official reinstatement.

After the school lost a legal battle with the NCAA over the logo, the State Board of Higher Education announced in April 2010 that the iconic Sioux logo would be retired. University officials initiated the change from the Indian head logo to an intertwined white and green "ND," a logo from the early 1900s.

That decision angered some residents including Frank Blackcloud, the 47-year-old spokesman for the Committee for Understanding and Respect, one of the organizations fighting to save the logo.

"The name was given forever in the pipe ceremony of 1969," Blackcloud said. "We should be grandfathered in."

In March 2011, the state legislature passed a measure forcing the university to retain the logo and reactivate its web address of fightingsioux.com.

A bill passed in a special legislative session eight months later rescinded the order, again dooming the mascot to extinction in December 2011.

This past February, supporters of the nickname gathered 17,213 signatures, enough to bring the issue to the popular vote on the ballot Tuesday night.

Aside from cultural and ethical considerations, North Dakota’s sports teams are barred from taking part in postseason NCAA games as long as they wear the logo.

Additionally, NCAA teams like Minnesota and Wisconsin, North Dakota’s biggest rivals, refuse to play teams with Indian nicknames.