Friday, February 16, 2007

University of Illinois Forced to Retire Chief Illiniwek [J. Mark English]

The University of Illinois will drop its 81-year-old American Indian mascot, Chief Illiniwek, following the last men's basketball home game of the season on Wednesday, officials said.

The move makes the school eligible to host postseason NCAA championship events, but it angered many Illini fans who say the chief honors American Indians.

The NCAA in 2005 deemed Illiniwek -- portrayed by buckskin-clad students who dance at home football and basketball games and other athletic events -- an offensive use of American Indian imagery and barred the university from hosting postseason events.

Comment -

Why stop there? Lets rename the state, and call it: Lincoln. I mean seriously, do these people even know the derivation of the name Illinois? According to Wikipedia: The state is named for the Illinois River which was named by French explorers after the indigenous Illiniwek people, a consortium of Algonquian tribes that thrived in the area. The word Illiniwek means "tribe of superior men."

So the great State of Illinois is actually named after the Illiniwek tribe. Have we stopped to ask how they feel about the exploitation their tribal name? Should every sweater or souvenir made with the name Illinois on it, have proceeds donated to the Illiniwek tribe? Or maybe the tribe is proud of their history and are glad that who they were is still remembered to this day.

Chief Illiniwek may not represent an accurate historical portrayal of the tribe, but at least he creates a myth which honors the Illiniwek tribe. Just as the USC Trojans honor the courage of Troy, and the Michigan State Spartans honor the warriors of Sparta, the University of Illinois found away to celebrate the Illiniwek, the tribe whom the state of Illinois itself is named after.

Why should we be so concerned with whom is offended? Do you think the ancestors really care about a football mascot?

In some cases, the tribes actually cheer and rejoice when a mascot is used to recall their tribes. Take the Florida State Seminoles...the Seminole nation fully supports Florida States use of their tribal symbolism. Read this:
Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell received a resolution supporting FSU's use of the "Seminole" name Friday when he became the first FSU president to be invited to a meeting of the Seminole Tribe of Florida's Tribal Council, the tribe's chief governing body.

"The message I received was clear," Wetherell said. "As the tribe's storied history shows the Florida Seminoles are an unconquered, sovereign and independent people. Florida State is exercising its own independent spirit in suggesting that the NCAA accept an early recommendation of its own committee and leave these decisions to each university."

The Tribal Council's resolution reads, in part, that the "Seminole Tribe of Florida has an established relationship with Florida State University, which includes its permission to use the name, 'Seminole,' as well as various Seminole symbols and images, such as Chief Osceola, for educational purposes and the Seminole Tribe of Florida wishes to go on record that it has not opposed, and, in fact, supports the continued use of the name 'Seminole.'" The resolution also supports the use of the Seminole head logo, which is endorsed by the university.

The decision on the part of the Seminole Tribe of Florida thwarted the efforts of the NCAA to ban the Florida Seminoles for post season athletic play. The tribe itself had to stop the NCAA! Amazing. Maybe they can take a clue and leave other schools alone.

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