GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Change rolled across the northern plains today, as the University of North Dakota prepared to drop its "Fighting Sioux" nickname and braced for the end of an era that lasted almost 80 years.
"It's been a tough day," said Chay Genoway, a UND hockey player.
After prolonged court battles, the state's higher education board ruled it is time to retire the school's moniker, which was long considered an insult to Native Americans - and long loved by many others.
"We're going to honor the pride, the tradition, the history of the Fighting Sioux," said hockey coach Dave Hakstol. "We know who we are and what we're about. We're going to move forward with that in mind."
The nickname will remain through next school year. The administration will now begin to consider alternatives.
Syd Beane, a Twin Cities community organizer and filmmaker who was born on a Sioux reservation, said schools need to move past ugly stereotypes.
"From the earliest days, when I went to movies, it was about Indians against the cavalry, and we were always depicted as fighting and losing."
Beane said if schools want to honor Native Americans, they should include them in the discussion. He said UND's rival, North Dakota State, has a nickname that honors that heritage.
"The North Dakota State Bison, for example. The bison is a revered animal amongst all people, including Native Americans."
But at the University of North Dakota, all you have to do is look at the hockey rink to realize what a long process this will be.
The privately owned Ralph Engelstad Arena, built by a Las Vegas casino owner who used to host parties celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday, is covered in Fighting Sioux logos.
They're in the carpet, they're in the granite, and there are about 3,000 of them.
Ralph Engelstad paid for the $100 million arena, and he died knowing change would not come easily.
There have been rumors that Engelstad left behind some sort of document saying the arena would close if the school ever dropped the Fighting Sioux nickname. But the arena's general manager said that's not true.
And Jody Hodgson told the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead he has no plans to change anything about the building -- no matter who is playing inside of it.
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