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UND nickname panel criticized as 'pro-logo'

FARGO, N.D. -- Some people watching the Sioux nickname committee say they think the group is a "logo retention committee" and doesn't include enough representation of the University of North Dakota American Indian community.

But the committee chairman disagrees with the criticism, saying people have a wrong impression of the committee's purpose.

Committee member Erich Longie, an outspoken nickname opponent and member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said the committee should disband and stop its work.

"In my opinion, the makeup of the committee and the work they're doing is close to unethical and immoral," Longie said.

Leigh Jeanotte, director of American Indian Student Services, said the makeup of the committee looks like it's aiming to retain the logo.

Jeanotte questioned why no staff or students from the programs affiliated with his office were asked to serve on the committee.

"We're never asked, we're never approached, we just don't really have a voice on this issue at all," said Jeanotte, a nickname opponent.

North Dakota university system Chancellor Bill Goetz said he appointed committee members to represent constituencies affected by the issue.

Goetz said he chose members based on whether they could be objective. He said he did not ask their stance on the logo.

"In no way was there any intent or any goal in mind to arrive at a membership to a committee that was going to be presumptive in terms of an outcome," Goetz said.

Grant Shaft, chairman of the committee, said he takes exception that the committee is too pro-logo.

Shaft said he asked Goetz to appoint members who had strong opinions on each side to ensure that the right questions get asked.

Shaft said it's important to understand the committee's role is not to negotiate with tribes over use of the nickname, but to thoroughly study the issue.

"We're essentially a factfinding committee and therefore it's not within our power to resolve anything," Shaft said.

A settlement of the lawsuit with the NCAA requires the support of the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake tribes by November 2010 to continue using the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

The committee, which held its first meeting last week, plans to hold meetings on North Dakota's two reservations and at UND to gather input.

"At what point does it become badgering?" said Longie, who said the tribes have been clear about their positions on the logo. "I think we are at that point or we're close to that point."

Ron His Horse Is Thunder, chairman of the Standing Rock tribe, said he was asked to be on the committee and said no.

His Horse Is Thunder said he will not attend a meeting if the committee comes to his reservation.

"We've got other important issues to work on," he said.

Tom Iron, a committee member and Standing Rock member, said His Horse Is Thunder does not represent a majority of tribal members.

Shaft, the committee chairman, said there are many questions the board has never asked the tribes, such as whether there is a way the nickname or logo could be used in an acceptable manner or if there's anything UND has failed to explore.

"There's a feeling out there that there hasn't been a true tribal input on this," Shaft said.

Amy Dalrymple is a staff writer for the Forum of Fargo/Moorhead, a Forum Communications newspaper, which also owns the Bemidji Pioneer.