Dakota Datebook

Bison/Sioux

Monday, November 3, 2003

There are several interesting things that happened in North Dakota on this date in history.

By this time in 1804, Lewis and Clark had arrived in the area, and according to their records, they began constructing their winter encampment on this date. The campsite they selected was on the Missouri River, in the vicinity of what is now the town of Washburn, and was named Fort Mandan because the explorers were impressed by the friendliness of the Mandan Indians who lived in the area.

In 1914, on this date, the Women’s Suffrage Act that was passed by the open-minded 1913 legislature was turned down by the state’s all-male voters. When one realizes that thousands of single women and widows had single-handedly homesteaded their own land, as well as started their own businesses, it is easy to understand the frustration and anger they felt at being left out of the political process. But North Dakota women would have to wait until 1917 to have a say in their future.

For football fans, this was the date when the legendary rivalry began between Fargo’s NDSU Bison and the UND Sioux of Grand Forks. The year was 1894, and the event was UND’s first intercollegiate sports contest, a football game with what was then called North Dakota Agricultural College. NDAC won that first game 20-6 (?? I have differing numbers), but Grand Forks accused a professor on the NDAC team of being a professional player.

NDAC’s team was first coached by the botanist, H. L. Bolley, who later became world famous as a plant pathologist. UND players were known as the Flickertails, and Fargo’s team was called the Farmers. The ongoing contest between the two made for good action until 1906, when UND got trounced so badly that they refused to play Fargo for the next four years.

Things changed, though, and pretty soon, UND dominated NDAC on a regular basis. UND changed their name to the Fighting Sioux, and shortly after, UND grad Robert Kunkel came up with the idea of introducing a trophy – a gigantic 1937 Buffalo head nickel. The nickel entered the scene in 1938, and every year since, the two teams have battled to possess it.

No good rivalry is without its tricks, of course, and the trophy has several times been stolen by the losing teams. In one case, two NDSU fans dressed as workers and got into the UND player’s lounge by presenting a bogus work order. The Sioux have not been innocent, though; their fans once stole the nickel from the Bison by hiding in a vent and waiting until after dark to nab it.

In 1963, Darrell Mudra became NDSU’s coach. Up until that time, the Bison were lagging far behind the Sioux in wins, but Mudra turned NDSU around. During the past decade or two, the two teams have been much better matched, and the games have not only become exciting but are also well attended.

The Bison and the Sioux have now played against each other in more games than any other two teams in Division II football history. But many people are wondering what will happen to the famous rivalry when NDSU moves into Division I athletics next year. Who will keep the nickel?

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

« Go Back


50 Years
A Million Thanks

Public NewsRoom

Log-on and dig deep into the news of the day. It’s all online in our Public NewsRoom.

» Visit the Public NewsRoom

Breaking News

Support Radio

Your contributions make quality radio programming possible.

» Pledge your support today.

Sign up for our Email Newsletter
For Email Marketing you can trust