ND 'Fighting Sioux' nickname petitioners plan legal action to access arenaBackers of petition drives aimed at preserving UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname said Friday they will seek a court order next week to force Ralph Engelstad Arena to allow the circulation of petitions before and during UND hockey games.
By: Chuck Haga, Forum Communications Co.
Backers of petition drives aimed at preserving UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname said Friday they will seek a court order next week to force Ralph Engelstad Arena to allow the circulation of petitions before and during UND hockey games.
While the arena is privately owned, it is on leased public ground and hosts hockey games put on by the university, a public institution, said Reed Soderstrom, a Minot attorney representing the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe’s pro-nickname Committee for Understanding and Respect.
“I don’t think they can shut us out like they did last weekend,” Soderstrom said.
“We are not demonstrating or creating a disturbance. We’d just like to set up a table where people can sign our petitions.”
He will be filing for an injunction in Grand Forks County District Court.
An arena spokesman said prior to last Saturday’s game that building policy does not allow “political activity” in or around the facility.
No Engelstad Arena officials were available late Friday to comment on the petition-circulators’ plans to seek an injunction.
‘25 percent there’
The committee is circulating petitions seeking a referendum and initiated measure, both aimed at saving the nickname.
Soderstrom and other volunteers attempted to collect signatures at the arena before last Saturday’s game but REA officials directed them to move to a designated “free speech” area near the UND Bookstore.
“Two people in wheelchairs tried to get to me” last Saturday across difficult terrain, Soderstrom said Friday. “I think we have the right to go where the people are.”
He said volunteers did manage to collect about 600 signatures that night.
Overall, he said, they are “about 25 percent there” in collecting the 13,500 qualified signatures needed for the referral.
Petitions with the signatures must be filed by Feb. 7 to get the issue on the June primary election ballot. That effort seeks to overturn the Legislature’s action in a special session in November repealing a law adopted earlier this year requiring UND to keep the name.
Volunteers also are circulating petitions seeking an initiated measure that would ask voters in November 2012 to write the Fighting Sioux nickname into the state Constitution. That effort will require the filing of about 27,000 signatures by Aug. 8.
UND’s Code of Student Life includes a “policy on petitions” setting out an approval process for authorizing the circulation of petitions in on-campus residences, at the Memorial Union and other public places.
“When approved, petitioners may gather signatures,” according to the policy. “The use for which the signatures are being solicited must be clearly defined and conspicuously displayed.”
Another section of the code notes that UND “reviews proposed special events and activities to assure they are congruent with the educational mission and do not represent an unreasonable risk to participants, other members of the campus community or university property.”