Monday, November 06, 2006

Controversy: Chief Illiniwek

In class we watched "In Whose Honor?" about the use of American Indians as mascots, and about Chief Illiniwek in particular. Our around table discussion was excellent, but if you have other ideas you'd like to post, please write them here. Include your name so others can respond to you.

As always, remember that if you disagree, you still need to be polite.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benny Wah
I think it is outrageous that people even think it's not racist. they are using a RITUAL from a people's daily lives. How would you like it if they had a rabbi circumcise a baby for a mascot or a monk praying?

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the Chief should be gotten rid of, or at least the dance and/or the costume.
I think this because if it were Christians made fun of or Jewish, there would be a huge uproar so shouldn't we pay the same service to Native Americans and get rid of the ridiculous mascot.
We will live without him after all.

Catherine Yunis

11:03 AM  
Blogger IDIOTDETECTOR said...

I think that Chief Iliniwik is somewhat appropriate because the costume is real, but the dance is part of an impotrant ritual therefore he is not appropriate for PUBLIC games. the idea is right, but the purpose is not. So, my final decision is that the symbol should stay, but the characture should change. maybe a big headed indian characture that DOESN'T do an important dance.
To post additional responses to Ms Anderson's classes, go to
that is all

11:09 AM  
Blogger Rover the Dog said...

I agree with Benny in that it is racist and a ritual from a people's daily lives, but I don't think that it is in any way related to a circumcision or a monk praying. A ritualistic dance is not quite as personal or, in my view, religious. This, however, doesn't mean that I think the Chief shouldn't be gotten rid of.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think not all of the American Indian names are racist. Sure there are names like Redskins, or Braves, or Warriors that are always racist because they stupidly generalize all American Indians. However, here's when it's not racist.

In 2005 the controversey when the controversey was escalating, Florida State University whose nickname is the SEMINOLES, a name of a TRIBE, not a nickname that stupidly generalizes all American Indians. So what Florida State did was they went to the Chief of the Seminoles asked premission to keep the nickname and mascot. The chief said yes, so Florida State kept their nickname.

So if your mascot is a nickname like Redskins, Braves, or Warriors that stupidly generalizes all American Indians, change it because it's racist.

If your mascot is Sioux, Chippewas, or Cherokee, which is a TRIBAL name, get premission from the tribe. If they say yes, then yes, you can keep it. If they say know then it's racist so you should tribe it.

Right now, you'd have to come up with a very good argument to beat mine.

- Tommy Wile

11:21 AM  
Blogger Ms. Anderson said...

Hey y'all,
Just wanted to remind you that the Chief's dance is NOT ritualistic. It is made up by U of I students. However, his costume is an authentic representation of Native American religious beliefs and ceremonies.

Ms. Anderson

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of criticizing and disagreeing with Idiotdetetecter, even though I want to. I want to tell him that you just can't think that everybody has a good reason, and Chief Illini is completely racist because it's like what I said in my comment, the U of I never asked premission from the chief to keep Illiniwek or the nickname. So it's definitely racist in everyway.

I just realized that I just criticized Idiotdetector so start calling me a hypocrite.

I also want to point out that the nickname is
FIGHTING ILLINI, which extremely racist because American Indians are probably one of the most peaceful people in America.

-Tommy Wile

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To note on what Benny said, the students that MADE UP THE DANCE aren't using a ritual, they MADE IT UP. Otherwise I agree with you. The Chief has made a ritual for the Illini students, but it is mocking Native Americans. Once again, if a college decided to be the Cleveland Asians, for example, asians would be highly offended, and we would try to get rid of the name. It is reasonable, but it JUST happened for Illini.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Debbie Reese said...

Good morning,

I'm a professor in American Indian Studies at UIUC. I'm also a tribally enrolled Pueblo Indian woman who has long worked at UIUC to get rid of the mascot and establish 1) opportunities for people to learn who Native peoples were and are by taking classes, and 2) a place for Native students, staff, faculty, community members to gather, and where anyone interested in Native culture to hang out. (I'm also the mother of Liz Reese, who is on Uni's swim team, and this year---her senior year---Uni beat U Chicago's swim team for the first time in many years. You have an awesome team.)

There's a lot of student activism history here at UIUC around the mascot. You can read some of that at our website:

The campus truly is hostile and abusive. The mascot is a thing, not a hostile and abusive thing, but its presence creates an atmosphere in which people vehemently take positions and say and do things that are hostile and abusive.

There's a growing sense of unease here that merits attention. This is around cultural insensitivity. Frat and sororities here have had "exchange" parties where they dressed like pregnant Mexican women and "farmers" and "gardeners" ---words they said in public, but in private, the words they used were wetbacks and illegals. Really ugly stuff.

Tomorrow is a "Pilgrims and Indians" party, where everyone is invited to attend in "appropriate" attire as a Pilgrim or an Indian.

I'm glad that you are studying the mascot issue there. It is my feeling that students at your school and Uni High here are among the brightest kids in Illinois, and that you will be the leaders in your fields one day. It is critical that people in those positions gain a sense of respect for all peoples, that means listening to voices of people. I fully believe in freedom of speech and similar ideas, but I also know that we are a caring people, and we can act in caring ways.

Debbie Reese

6:14 AM  
Blogger Debbie Reese said...

One more comment:

I am a former elementary school teacher. My research as a professor is on the ways that children's books present American Indians. I started a blog on that topic. Take a look. As a society, we start teaching children to think about Native people in very narrow ways. Children's books, those warm fuzzy books that we grow to love... They're part of that teaching. And when we have all these warm fuzzies associated with those books and our families and the images in those books, when we see something like Chief Illiniwek, we can't be critical. Our warm fuzzies get in the way. Here's the blog address:

Last, my email address is

6:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rosie C-G
I disagree with idiotdetector, because, not to be rude, but Cheif Illiniwik is not one bit approriate. From his costume, to his dance, to his name for a sportsteam, it is not respectful or kind to do something like that. When Native American's say "I do not take this as an honor, I take it offensively" they are clearly stating that they disagree with the idea. Therefore, if they're taking offense, Cheif Illiniwik needs to be removed. I understand the people who made Cheif Illiniwik a sports icon did not mean to be rude, but obviously many people think so. Another factor is what if your religion, belief or ritual was being used as a sports mascot? I think it's horrible, and it needs to be stopped.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Ms. Oakes said...

Congratulations on such a fantastic discussion. Thank you, Ms. Reese, for your insight and important analysis of children's literaterature. Another web site that provides a native perspective on literature, both fiction and non-ficition, is

Food for thought:
Illiniwek is a tribal group name.
If native people would like to see the mascot gone, is there are valid reason to keep it?

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but Chief Illiniwek really needs to stay. It is the spirit of the Illini, and everyone around them. It is no longer a racist symbol, but a symbol of the Illini spirit. Alumni also donate thousands to keep it alive.
Though it may be racist and controversial, without there wouldn't be the school. Early on, things could have been changed, but now it is to late.
I agree it is racist, but not enough to take away. Maybe if it was a real Indian, it would be better. Or if it was a real dance. The fans don't care, and would still be enthusiastic. Also, the fans don't disrespect Chief Illiniwek, quite the opposite really. They respect the Chief hugely.
This is why I think we should keep the chief.
~Nathan E.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was deeply moved by the Chief Illiniwek movie. It was so sad to see that they used the authentic costume especially. This is because Natives are taught to respect anyone who is dressed the way Chief Illiniwek is with the eagle feathers. I think it is a disgrace to wear the clothes without the official title. They might think they are being fair and authentic, but the reality is, they are just offending a large group of people.
-Caroline Kagan

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you Caroline, and it is a great point. I still think, though, there is more in it than being racist and such.
~Nathan E.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly Petchenik
I completely agree with Caroline. Just think how different the reacton of the university would be if their mascot was a figure from Chrisianity. I also thought it was a bit ironic to see how the African American man treated the Native American woman. He treated her exactly how others treat the people of his own race. Not that he had any more obligation to side with her than everyone else, though. In my opinion, we owe a lot to the Native Americans, considering that without them, some of the first European settlers would not have survived. I think we all have times in our lives where our culture or something that means a lot to us is portrayed incorrectly. It is a shame that the Native Americans have to endure so much of it.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Chief Illiniwik is loved by more people that he is hatted by. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't get rid of him. I think that they should change him in some way that he is accepted by both cultures. And they shouldn't say that the dance is authentic because it isn't. They really should be more honest about those things. And in the movie, the people that were supporting Chief Illinwik seemed kinda nervous. They didn't seem so sure of themselves. As if they weren't sure if what they were saying was right. Even thought Chief Illiwik seems bad, agian this movie is one sided. They are taking the Native Americans side. They want you to think about the Native Americans point of view because they assume we know the other point of view. They think that the Native Americans aren't being heard enough, now the Americans aren't being heard enough. Anyway, back to the Cheif, he isn't doing anything wrong, The Natives think that he is. Maybe he isn't doing an authentic dancec, or maybe he is an insult, but we get insulted too. The thing is that people can protest, but that doesn't mean that they are going to get what they want. Maybe they should change the Chief to a cartoon character or not have him at all, but no matter what we do, they will never be satisfied, they will find something else to prostest about or they will do something agianst us. Maybe it won't be the Native Americans, but it will be someone. You never see the Americans soing something like that. I think people shouldn't make such a big deal out of jokes no matter if it's funny or not. They should tell some people and maybe those people will tell some other people and the news will get around that way, but you don't need to make a political issue about it. I do completely agree with Nathen and Caroline but I think theres more to it than just team apirit and racial issues, it's also about the people that are going agianst chief. They are the ones causing the problem. There was never an issue about this until that lady went to the game with thier children. She was complaining about the threatening calls that she got, but by what she was doing, she was asking for it.

-Stephanie Funk
Per 8-9

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with beny that the half time show that they have is wrong. I think that it is okay for him to be the mascot but the "chief" shouldn't do anything at half time. The can still keep the picture but it is terrible that they would ever have the chief wear the eagle feathered hat. That is totally against their religion.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote the last comment.

Cory S.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isaac Stanley-Becker

It may be a good game opener or way to get the crowd inspired, but does that trump the fact that it is racist and simply unnaceptable? It's turning something that is important and sacred to Native Americans into a joke. Although some say that it would not be tolerated if the dance and costume was not authentic but it makes it okay because it is authentic, like Ms. Anderson said, the dance was made up by a bunch of students who most of porbaably have no idea of the actual dance that was an important ritual for Native Americans. I ask you this-- How would you feel if a ritual that you were taught to respect was being performed by a student before a basketball game while the crowd cheered, completely ignorant of the actual ritual?

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isaac Stanley-Becker

I would just like to quickly add that I think that what Molly brought up was very interesting. Why is it that the Native Americans are the people who are given no respect and whose rituals are made into half-time shows. Also as Benny said, why isn't the mascot a jewish rabbi, or a praying monk?

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To add on to what Isaac said, I think that the Native Americans are the people who are given the least respect is because we don't count them as an ethnicity or a race. That is probably because us Americans now live on the natives' earth. Usually a race/culture has a region that they can call "their homeland", for example Africans have Africa. But Europeans came over to the Native Americans' homeland, and made it their own. We call US our home, but what have the Natives got?-"their" reservations?

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am (while not native american) offended by Cheif Illini, it what point of mind can one take a religon or culture and make fun of it just because it is less practice. What if christianity become a lesser religon, would that make it okay to have things they respect made fun of. What if they had Jesus dancing around on the court. Now some people reading this might be offended that I even said that, now you have an idea of how the native americans feel! Now what if they potrayed Jesus as doing things he clearly would not do, like dancing around the stadium. Are you feeling very proud right now, hmmmmm. Well every time a religous native americans see cheif Illini they probably feel the same so why should we continue to do this!

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above by Dylan TLG

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Mom was in the protest parade and met ms. T. the first protester against the chief!


5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to Isaac, even if the fans observed the ritual in a sacred way, would it be okay?

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would disagree with most of the other postings. Because they say that its outrageous. But really it shows that they accept indian culture. Granted it may n ot be the right way to show it, it is definitely not correct. but maybe if the universities got some education and the dance was culturly correct.

Jacob Rosen

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if the Chief is somewhat offensive, it may not be neccessary to dispose of him. If it was a stereotypical Jew, lighting Shabbat candles maybe, I would think it amusing, although I am Jewish. I know, it is made worse by the fact that the Native Americans have been widely oppressed. But here's a thought: How about we try to stop their oppression instead of arguing about a mascot? Maybe (again, maybe) if people widely understood the Native Americans' way of life, they could relax somewhat about these kinds of things. Even if they refused to let it go, is it really life-threatening?

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In responde to Josh--
I would say no because even if the fans regarded the dance and outfit as sacred, is the proper place for this respect on the basketball court? Some fans may respect the dance, but is it not innapropriate that this ritual is being performed as a half-time show with a non- authenitic dance? I say this regardless of weather the fans are actually respectful of the dance or if they are simply enjoying the show.

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, Jacob, can people find another way to be respectful of the Native American culture without preparing a un- authentic dance and performing it at half-time at a basketball or football game? Do you think that that really shows respect in an appropriate way? Moreover, why is it that the Native Americans get to "respected" at half-time shows. If it is truly respect that people are showing Native Americans, how did they choose Native Americans? How did they decide to dress someone up as a Native American Chief and not some other religous or cultural symbol?

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isaac, although I agree with your comment it's too general. You're saying that all Native Americans which means think that their offensive. So your basically saying that the Apaches are offended by the way the Central Michigan Chippewas are potrayed, and the tribe of the Chippewas are fine with the way they're being portrayed. Your just to general. And don't try to challenge me on this argument because I know some cases of this.

-Tommy W.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still think that even though it was racist and rude, it is something more than what everyone says. If the Indians wanted it changed, they should have taken a stand years ago. If you noticed, no Indians were really supporting the women.
~Nathan E.

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe none of them had heard about it before.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, maybe they didn't know about it. Or maybe they were mad about it, but thought that it would just make it worse to say somthing. Also, people can't say that it souldn't bother the Native Americans, because we're not them. Also, the Native Americans that do say something always say that they should stop it, they never say that it's okay.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it true that the "chief" has been taken away? Asuming that I'm right, when I first heard it, I was happy. But then I heard the story from the side of someone who liked the chief. The only thing was, I think that the people should have made themselves more clear about why they didn't like it. The person who I was talking to made alot of points that were untrue about it. i.e. she said that the chiefs dance was authentic, so it should have stayed. But the chiefs dance really WASN'T authentic, so maybe some people just didn't know the whole story.
~Jessica C.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think it would help at all to have a Native American person play the "chief"? Some people think it would, but I don't think so. A lot of people think that if they asked Nativev American people to be the "chief", they would. But there's no law saying that Native Americans CAN"T be the chief now, so why would it make a difference if they specifically asked for them?\
~Jessica C

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also..everyone loves the people that play "chief illiniwek". So wouldn't it seem a little like we were trying to bribe them by specifically asking for Native American people?
~Jessica C

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, even though we all disagree, we really are all agreeing that even though this is a very important topic, that it's not killing anyone phisically. Some people say "it's not hurting the Native Americans, so why don't we just let the 'chief' stay because so many other people like him". While other people say "It's racist and the Native American people-and others-are really offended by it, and it wouldn't kill anyone to take him away". So in a way, we're all agreeing that the subject of the "chief" isn't having to do with people phisically getting hurt, but about them mentally getting hurt (by saying it's racist and rude/the 'chief' being a part of the school). So people shouldn't really be talking about it not killing anyone, because it wouldn't kill anyone anyway. We should really be talking about it hurting peoples spirits, and how we can fix that.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel that racism should never be tolerated and josh what you said about oppression is wrong there is very little oppression and it's dumb to give back their land

2:10 PM  

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