'Fighting Sioux' debate rages on
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FEBRUARY 19, 2001

The debate over the controversial "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo of the University of North Dakota continues as an article published in an educational journal today paints one of its main supporters as a Nazi sympathizer who once paid $1.5 million to the state of Nevada for damaging its reputation.

Wealthy UND alumnus and benefactor Ralph Engelstad held parties on Hitler's birthday, printed up bumper stickers proclaiming "Hitler was Right," and collected cars which belonged to members of the Third Reich. He eagerly displayed Nazi propaganda in his Las Vegas casino and when a university professor once asked him if he knew that a "summer holiday" in German meant a one-way pass to a concentration camp, he professed ignorance.

To readers of this week's edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, a nationally published education journal, it might not be hard to see why Engelstad would threaten to stop construction on an $85 million hockey arena should the school drop its "Sioux" moniker. But it might also be difficult to understand why school officials, well aware of his million-dollar fine and having seen his Nazi collection in person, would agree to accept his money in the first place.

According to The Chronicle, the school thought Engelstad's expensive hobby was just an example of "bad taste." What they thought of his December 20 letter to UND President Charles Kupchella is another story.

"Please be advised that if this logo and slogan are not approved by you no later than Friday, December 29, 2000, then you will leave me with no alternative but to take the action which I think is necessary," wrote Engelstad to Kupchella.

"It is a good thing that you are an educator because you are a man of indecision and if you were a businessman, you would not succeed, you would be broke immediately," he continued.

Kupchella, the educator, had indeed been mulling over the name for much of the year and planned to announce a decision when students returned in January of this year. Engelstad, the businessman, was anxious to have it resolved and warned Kupchella that he'd let the unfinished arena rot if he had to.

But it was the North Dakota Board of Higher Education who trumped Kupchella and voted 8-0 the next day to keep the name.

To Ira Taken Alive, the decision probably came too late anyway. A member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the son of council member Jesse Taken Alive, he fought to change the nickname the majority of the 350 Native Americans on campus consider racist and offensive.

After three years of harassment and threats, he dropped out in 1999. However, he returned last summer to complete his schooling but faced a campus where the overwhelming majority of the non-Indian student body and alumni favor keeping the name.

Kupchella is now playing the negotiator and hopes to convince Sioux tribal leaders to support the name despite their repeated objections to it. Carole Anne Heart, the president of the National Indian Education Association, says it comes down to one issue.

"They say we really honor you," said Heart at a panel discussion she led this past Saturday. "But as an Indian person, I don't think anyone is honored by the name 'Fighting Sioux.'"

The Board of Higher Education says it won't reconsider its decision.

Ed Note: Due to a proofreader's error, the North Dakota Board of Higher Education was incorrectly stated as being located in Nebraska. Although the states are nearby, they are indeed separate.

Read the Article:
A Battle Over a Name in the Land of the Sioux (The Chronicle of Higher Education February 23, 2001)
$100-Million Donor's Ultimatum (The Chronicle of Higher Education February 23, 2001)

Relevant Links;
The Chronicle of Higher Education -
The University of North Dakota -

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