LaDuke opens N.D. mascot conference
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Political and environmental activist Winona LaDuke opened a mascot conference at the University of North Dakota on Wednesday night, criticizing the school for its continued use of the "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo.

"I do not think the university is the Fighting Sioux," she told attendees of the Northern Plains Conference on American Indian Nicknames and Logos. "If you want to say you are the Fighting Sioux, you should stand up for the rights of those people."

But according to LaDuke, the school has done anything but. While Sioux tribal leaders in North and South Dakota, most Native American students and a sizable number of faculty oppose the use of "Fighting Sioux," the school readily accepted $100 million from a wealthy alumnus with a rocky past to build a hockey arena that prominently features the controversial logo and name.

"When the University of North Dakota decided to take the 100 million bucks," for the arena, she said, "I will point out to you that the Lakota would not take $106 million for the Black Hills of South Dakota."

LaDuke's speech heralded in what is expected to be a contentious week at the Grand Forks school. The conference, which features speeches and discussion about the use of Indians as mascots, logos or nicknames, has been timed to coincide with the opening of the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Paid for by Ralph Engelstad, the hockey arena will be inaugurated on Friday night. Attendees of the conference plan to hold a protest outside the facility as fans arrive for the first game.

The reason, LaDuke said, is simple. "Don't call people names they don't want to be called."

For Engelstad, his support of the "Fighting Sioux" became so important that he threatened last December to let his unfinished arena rot should the school scrap the nickname. At the time, President Charles Kupchella was considering dropping the name.

"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," Engelstad threatened in a letter to Kupchella.

Engelstad, whom university officials knew was a purveyor of Nazi paraphernalia but chalked it up to "bad taste," soon got his wish. The North Dakota Board of Higher Education the following day voted to keep the name.

Since then, the Indian community has watched Engelstad complete his arena emblazoned with the "Fighting Sioux" logo. Although the new version was designed by an Indian artist, detractors haven't let up their criticism.

When a statue outside of the arena is unveiled Friday night, they might more reason to complain. Sources have told various media the statue depicts Lakota spiritual leader Sitting Bull atop a stallion.

Today, the conference continues with a number of roundtables about the use of mascots. Charlene Teters, interim dean at the Institute of American Indian Arts and well known for her mascot documentary "In Whose Honor," will be the keynote speaker this evening.

Today on Indianz.Com:
'Fighting Sioux' statue wanted removed (10/4)
Letters: 'Fighting Sioux' controversy (10/4)

Relevant Links:
The Northern Plains Conference on American Indian Team Names & Logos -
The University of North Dakota -

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