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Tribe unlikely to vote on controversial UND nickname soon

MINOT, N.D. - It's unlikely that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe will hold a referendum regarding the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname in the immediate future.

North Dakota University System Chancellor Bill Goetz told the State Board of Higher Education this morning that Murphy reiterated the issue is not high on his agenda and that it is a "very, very divisive" issue both on the Tribal Council and on the reservation at large.

Goetz met with Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Charles W. Murphy in a closed-door session last week.

Goetz said Murphy is concerned about the nickname controversy's negative impact on American Indian students at UND and throughout the university system.

Goetz said Murphy noted that he was not at liberty to push for a tribal referendum because that's a matter for the Tribal Council and, to date, the council has not discussed the issue. A moratorium on such referendums, passed by a previous council, remains in force, Goetz said.

This reflects the tone of an earlier letter from Murphy to the chancellor in which he indicated the nickname was not a priority for his administration.

Under the settlement between the state and the NCAA, which considers American Indian nicknames offensive, UND has until Nov. 30, 2010, to win the support of the state's two Sioux tribes. The Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation has approved the nickname in a referendum.

The state board favors moving the deadline ahead so that UND can apply to the Summit League athletic conference, which has said it would not consider any application until the nickname issue is resolved.

Meanwhile, some supporters of the nickname at Standing Rock have filed a lawsuit to attempt to prevent the state Higher Ed Board from moving the deadline. The North Dakota attorney general will brief the board in a closed session this afternoon on the lawsuit.

Tu-Uyen Tran is a reporter at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co. ,/i>