“The Fighting Sioux” – branding and tradition vs. racist concerns

Names and brands represent a significant investment for all organizations, no matter if they are for-profit corporations, private organizations, or higher education institutions. The University of North Dakota has resurrected its moniker – “The Fighting Sioux.” For decades the school has been of two minds about its nickname and logo. Some supporters view the name as traditional, while opposition characterizes the name as offensive to Native Americans. The logo features a Native American warrior with feather headdress. Merchandise with the logo is popular throughout North Dakota and neighboring areas.

UND had officially dropped the Fighting Sioux nickname in 2011, but after local residents collected 17,000 signatures to put the issue to a state-wide vote, the school was required to reinstate the logo back into effect.

The issue continues to cause problems for UND. The University of Iowa rescinded an invitation to an April track meet due to the school’s nickname. Iowa policy does not allow athletic departments to schedule competitions with schools using Native American mascots, unless the mascot is approved by the NCAA. In a related topic, the women’s hockey team from UND was not able to have their team photo included in the tournament guide due to apparel with the Fighting Sioux logo.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the essential elements of this issue?
  2. What have been the experiences of other schools in similar situations?
    1. Have students research the number of schools (high school and college) with similar nicknames that could be detrimental to a race or ethnical group.
    2. What have been the implications?
    3. What is the impact of a university logo on sales of apparel? On other aspects of campus life?
    4. How important is brand to universities?
    5. What could UND do to resolve the issue?

Source: Brandchannel.com, Associated Press, 2/28/12, CNN

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