Spirit Lake Nation Responds to Big Sky Conference

FT. TOTTEN, ND – The Spirit Lake Nation has responded to indirect remarks made by the Big Sky Conference Commissioner regarding the Sept. 27th letter sent by the tribe’s Committee for Understanding and Respect on the University of North Dakota’s use of the Fighting Sioux name and logo. This committee was empowered by resolution to act on behalf of the Tribal Council regarding the Fighting Sioux name and logo issue.

In this letter, the Spirit Lake Nation clarified to conference commissioner Dr. Doug Fullerton that they are in strong support of the continued use of their namesake and logo by UND, and interpret any action or sanctions to be a direct attack against their race, customs, traditions, culture, and people. They also asked the conference to make clear its position concerning the Fighting Sioux name and logo, and what its position would be regarding UND’s application for membership in the Big Sky Conference if UND were to retain them

Fullerton was interviewed by the Grand Forks Herald on Sept 27th regarding the Spirit Lake Nation’s letter, but sidestepped the questions posed by the tribe in the letter to the conference. He has not yet provided a direct response to the tribe, but was quoted as saying the tribe’s name and likeness could marginalize UND. He was also reported to have first wanted to consult with conference attorneys on the matter before issuing a more formal response.

While an official response has not yet been provided, Fullerton was reported as possibly considering the Committee for Understanding and Respect as a standalone group, implying they were representing their own interests. The tribe did provide a copy of Resolution A05-11-174, empowering the Committee for Understanding and Respect to represent the tribal council, in their original submission to the Big Sky.

Based on the commissioner’s remarks which were published in the Grand Forks Herald, the tribe posted another letter to Fullerton and the Big Sky on Sept 30th. In it, they strongly voiced their disappointment at the lack of a direct response from the Big Sky, and Fullerton’s implication that their name can somehow marginalize UND. The tribe pointed out that the only NCAA policy sanctions pertained to playoff uniforms and venues, and asked him to clarify what other sanctions he knew to exist.


PAGE 2: Spirit Lake Nation Responds to Big Sky Conference

The tribe emphasized that the Sioux name and likeness were given as a gift to UND via a sacred ceremony recognized by the US Supreme Court, and only they can remove it. They also warned the NCAA, Big Sky, and UND that if they continue on their present course to retire the Sioux name and likeness, it would be done at their own risk.

The tribe also called into question a 2007 settlement agreement to a lawsuit between UND and the NCAA

on the NCAA’s Native American team name, logo, and mascot policy, stating they were never consulted with by either side during the lawsuit, or in subsequent settlement negotiations. The letter stated “the NCAA policy and, by exception, the illegitimate agreement entered into between it and UND are nothing more than empty conceit based upon white privilege.”

The letter, signed by committee chairman John Chaske, a Spirit Lake Nation Elder, also warned that the tribe “… will be heard, and we will not rest until the assaults on our proud name and likeness – our gift (to UND) – end.” The tribe also encouraged the Big Sky to work with them for the removal of the current NCAA policy, and to instead look to the gift of their name and likeness as given to UND as an opportunity to educate the masses on the positive contributions of Native American culture to the United States.

The NCAA policy on the use of Native American team names, logos, and mascots was introduced in 2005 in response to their allegation that such use was hostile and abusive. The Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights investigated such claims as they pertained to UND in 2002, and found they were unsubstantiated. The Committee for Understanding and Respect also conducted their own investigation, and could find no evidence of an environment hostile and abusive towards Native Americans. Eighteen schools were singled out by the NCAA as having offending names, including UND. Eight changed their names, and four received official exemptions from the NCAA. The other six, including UND, have not and chose to accept sanctions pertaining to playoff uniforms and venues. No other known sanctions have been imposed on the teams keeping their Native American associations despite the NCAA policy.



A number of years ago the name of the website, “Save the Fighting” was retained. It was retained because there were a significant number of Fighting Sioux fans who supported the retention of the “Fighting Sioux” name and Indian head logo. That’s who this website is for. It is the intent that this website ultimately be a source of information and encouragement for keeping the name and logo forever.

Contrary to what many people say, or think, this issue is not over!

The special session of the North Dakota legislature has not spoken.

While some people think that North Dakota “Fighting Sioux” fans should just “move on,” there are a significant number of Fighting Sioux fans who have no intention of just “moving on.”

Ralph Engelstad did not “move on” when his alma mater and the city of Grand Forks was under water and on fire. Instead, he made the largest financial contribution to any university in the United States by an individual donor by financing 100% of the construction of what is now one of the finest sports facilities in the world.

So if you are a Fighting Sioux fan who is not ready or willing to “move on,” then we suggest you let it be known on this website, who you are and why you support the name, “Fighting Sioux” and the logo forever.

Finally, there’s a link on this website to PayPal. The purpose is to allow you to make a financial contribution to the effort to retain the name and the logo.

100% of any contribution you make will go toward that effort– to help distribute information to the public and will not go to any individual.

Please make your contributions payable to Save The Fighting securely through Pay Pal. You can also send your donation by check to

Fighting Sioux Fund

Financial Institution, Western State Bank,

110 4th Street SE, P.O. Box 610, Devils lake, ND 58301-0610.


Spirit Lake Committee for Understanding and Respect

P O Box 359, Fort Totten, ND 58335

Phone: 701-766-4221