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Statement of David Gipp Regarding Nickname Lawsuit
12 August 2011

Statement of David M. Gipp, United Tribes Technical College President, regarding the filing August 11 of a lawsuit by University of North Dakota students against state officials over their handling of the “Fighting Sioux” nickname:

      “This lawsuit is long overdue and very necessary to refocus the discussion about what is at stake when discrimination is allowed to continue unchecked in a public institution of higher education.

      “I have long said the ‘Fighting Sioux’ case challenges North Dakota’s public institutions to extend 21st Century human rights standards to all of its citizens. It is unfortunate that American Indian students at UND have had to take this action to protect their own rights. Their access to educational services and their educational progress is threatened by the continued use of a divisive sports nickname.

      “I believe that state officials have failed to live up to their responsibilities. By consistently minimizing and avoiding the realities of this case and ignoring those who describe the damage it creates in the higher education setting, they are continuing to cause great harm. Those involved in protecting the nickname have failed in their public responsibility for the safety, welfare and educational access of all North Dakotans, including Native Americans. This pattern of behavior has also failed the University of North Dakota and its mission to serve equally and equitably and provide access of opportunity for all groups. When state officials fail in this, they are not doing their jobs. And they may even be adding to the discrimination and the climate for it.

      The NCAA and the Higher Learning Commission, UND’s accrediting body, have simply asked the university to uphold the rights of all in the educational setting and to be fair and equitable to everyone. That’s what UND is supposed to be about. It’s an educational institution, not a sports institution. Unfortunately state officials have made this about money and sports and forgotten about the value of education and access to it.

      “I also believe that this lawsuit demonstrates a long-lasting resolve on the part of tribal citizens to continue working against the UND nickname until it is retired from use.”

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