The University of North Dakota is going to have to find a new nickname for its athletic teams. Thursday the North Dakota state board agreed to drop the school’s nickname and logo. Both have been dubbed offensive because the term “Fighting Sioux” is demeaning to Native Americans.
The board voted 8-0 to “retire” the school’s logo and nickname. The NCAA is opposed to Indian names for its member institutions. They had threatened UND with sanctions if it didn’t stop using the Fighting Sioux logo and nickname which it deemed “hostile and abusive” toward Native American students.
The school had been involved with past skirmishes involving the “Fighting Sioux” nickname. North Dakota’s college hockey program is one of the best in the country. Their arena is a palace. Ralph Engelstad Arena features ornate granite flooring. Every seat in “The Ralph” is made with cherry wood and leather upholstery. Engelstad, a UND alumnus and Las Vegas casino owner, built the $110 million facilty with his own money. Midway through construction of the building, he threatened to pull his funding if the school bowed to political correctness and changed its nickname from the Fighting Sioux. Engelstad strategically placed the school’s Fighting Sioux logo throughout the building. Engelstad put thousands and thousands of logos throught the arena so that removing them would be virtually impossible. He died in 2002.
Las Vegans will remember Engelstad as the owner of the Imperial Palace casino on The Strip. Longtime Vegas residents will remember Engelstad being fined $1.5 million by the Nevada Gaming Control Board for throwing birthday parties for Adolph Hitler at the I.P. in 1986 and ’88.
The book “Cultural Representation in Native America” by Andrew Jolivette contends that Engelstad’s insistence on keeping the Fighting Sioux nickname and his well-known fascination with Hitler were related. Jolivette describes a meeting where seven University of North Dakota officials went to Las Vegas to “put the squeeze” on Engelstad. They were eventually able to convince the school’s wealthiest graduate to donate $100 million. However, several of the school officials were literally sickened upon meeting Engelstad, who had a life-size portrait of Hitler hanging in his house along with a host of Nazi memorabilia. Engelstad’s Hitler portrait had an engraved inscription which read, “To Ralphie from Adolph.” Sicker still, Engelstad had an old Nazi propoganda poster on his wall showing children staring out the window of a train. The caption (in German) read, “Summer Holiday.”
URBAN LEGEND HAS IT THAT RALPH ENGELSTAD WAS SUCH A FAN OF ADOLPH HITLER THAT HE DESIGNED THE IMPERIAL PALACE IN THE SHAPE OF A SWASTIKA: HERE’S THE BUILDING FROM A GOOGLE EARTH PICTURE