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Published January 10, 2012, 05:47 PM

Petitioners, REA Officials in Court Over Signature Collection

(WDAZ-TV) - The Spirit Lake Nation committee aiming to get a pair of Fighting Sioux measures on a statewide ballot wants to be able to collect signatures on its petitions among UND's most rabid fans.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

(WDAZ-TV) - The Spirit Lake Nation committee aiming to get a pair of Fighting Sioux measures on a statewide ballot wants to be able to collect signatures on its petitions among UND's most rabid fans.

But the people who run the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks say that's not going to happen.

The committee went to court Tuesday in hopes a judge would say they could have access to the Ralph.

Those gathering petitions know that if they want to get the signatures fast, they can do that here at the Ralph. But to get inside is beginning court battle.

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Nickname supporters say they have about half of the 13,000 signatures needed to get a measure on the June ballot.

It's an effort to put a law back in place requiring UND to keep the Sioux name.

"We are the committee that is trying to get that saved," Spirit Lake committee member Eunice Davidson said.

They're getting many of those just outside the Ralph Englestad Arena.

"It's just the place to be for Fighting Sioux Fans. The UND students are back now as of January 9th. They are back in full force and we need several thousand more signatures to get the referral," said Reed Soderstrom, a lawyer for the Committee for Understanding a Respect.

The committee believes they can get those signatures faster if they move from the designated spots outside the Ralph to inside the arena.

A "no" from the Ralph had the two sides in court Tuesday. Lawyers for the REA say the facility is privately owned has has the right to policies that don't allow groups on the property to rally for their cause.

Lawyers for the Spirit Lake committee argue the Ralph is a public place because it sits on university-owned land.

"Is it a public venue or not? And if that threshhold comes through, then are they narrowly construing their policies to give us reasonable access?" Soderstrom said.

REA management has concerns that if they would allow those seeking signatures into the Ralph, it would open up the floodgates for all other groups pushing a cause.

Judge Sonja Clapp earlier denied a request from nickname supporters who wanted to be allowed inside the arena.

Clapp says she hopes to make a decision before UND's hockey series with Minnesota on Friday and Saturday.

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