A U.S. federal judge has thrown out a federal lawsuit by a committee of tribal members trying to save the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname, an issue that has been debated on several fronts since the NCAA in 2005 declared the moniker hostile and abusive.
The suit was filed against the NCAA by several members of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe and one member of the Standing Rock Sioux. It asked for at least $10 million and a reversal of the NCAA policy banning the use of American Indian imagery in post-season play.
The NCAA filed a motion in December to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the tribes lacked standing to bring it and their claims that the tribes' civil and religious rights were violated are not supported by facts.
A federal judge ruled late Tuesday in favor of the governing body of college athletics. Reed Soderstrom, the tribal committee's lawyer, said he planned to meet with other attorneys to see if there's a "crack in the door" for an appeal.
The fight began when the NCAA told 19 schools to get rid of American Indian nicknames or risk sanctions. UND received approval from Spirit Lake to keep its name, but Standing Rock refused to hold a vote on the issue.
The Spirit Lake reservation is located entirely within the state of North Dakota, while the Standing Rock reservation straddles the border between North Dakota and South Dakota, with its tribal headquarters in Fort Yates, N.D. Some supporters of the nickname have argued that Standing Rock's interest in the issue is tempered because many members live in South Dakota.
Soderstrom acknowledged his group "hung our hats" on a 1969 pipe ceremony held on the UND campus when a delegation from Standing Rock and at least one representative from Spirit Lake reportedly gave the university permanent rights to use the nickname.
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