Tribes Sue NCAA Over Right to Use 'Fighting Sioux' Name

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 01, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Native American tribe in North Dakota indicated that it may be planning to bring its lawsuit to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, reports the Bismarck Times.

The Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes sued in the federal district court against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for its policy banning the use of Native American imagery. The lawsuit didn't get very far on the merits, given the reaction of the district judge.

The University of North Dakota has been pushed by the NCAA to drop its nickname "Fighting Sioux." The name, supporters say, carries with it a long history of tradition. But the controversy surrounding the name "Fighting Sioux" has led the NCAA to implement a policy against the use of the name.

The NCAA was sued by the Committee for Understanding and Respect, represented by Minot attorney Reed Soderstrom. U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson dismissed the lawsuit against the NCAA and now, the supporters of the Fighting Sioux have filed a notice of intent to appeal with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Committee for Understanding and Respect was authorized by Tribal Council to speak on its behalf regarding the issue of the nickname and logo. The lawsuit before the District Court was seeking at least $10 million in damages from the NCAA.

The lawsuit also wanted a reversal of the NCAA's policy against the use of Native American names and imagery by member schools.

The bulk of the lawsuit, Soderstrom indicated, would hinge on the notion that a 1969 "sacred" naming ceremony at UND gave the University the irrevocable right to use the Fighting Sioux name.

Whether this argument will hold up in an appeals court is certainly questionable but lends itself to an interesting case.

Related Resources:

  • Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (US Courts)
  • Browse Eighth Circuit Cases (FindLaw)
  • District Court Memorandum Opinion (North Dakota Attorney General)
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