With the retirement Chief Illiniwek, the fog of mythology thickens. As accusations fly, how well can YOU see fact from fiction? Test your Chief Illiniwek IQ.
True or False?:
1. The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign was established partly using money from selling off Native American lands.
2. After the US Bureau of Indian Affairs outlawed Indian religion, dance, and ritual on reservations, Chief Illiniwek was invented as half-time entertainment for UI football games.
TRUE. The original 1926 Chief Illiniwek a white student dressed as a tribal Chief smoking a "peace pipe" with another student dressed as William Penn.
3. The dress, dance, and symbol of Chief Illiniwek bear no relation to the dress, dances, and symbols of any tribe from the midwest.
TRUE. The dress is borrowed from Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, staged photos by Edward Curtis, and the Boy Scouts - who captured the European-American imagination with a single image of The Indian - a pre-reservation Native American from the southwest Plains region. The dance is made up acrobatics.
4. The tradition of genocide has historically involved appropriation of religious symbols.
TRUE. For example, when the Romans conquered the Greeks, they took their gods, renamed them, and began to worship them.
5. The movement to remove the Chief Illiniwek mascot started in 1988 when the UI Art Department recruited several students form the School of American Indian Arts.
TRUE. Marcus Amerman was mocked and threatened for his opposition to the mascot, had a break down, and left the University of Illinois. Charlene Teters stood alone outside a UI game with a sign "American Indians are human beings, not mascots" and was spat on, had beer cans thrown at her, and received threatening phone calls.
6. When the UI Homecoming king and queen said statements opposing the Chief mascot in 1997, the UI ended the practice of crowning Homecoming kings and queens.
7. When the Native American singing trio Ulali visited the UI to sing and discuss Native American issues, they were expressly told by the administration not to talk about Chief Illiniwek.
8. In a recent online posting, one UI student suggested throwing a thomahawk in the face of a Native American student and another said "I hope all those casino-owning bums die."
TRUE. And on WDWS talk show "Penny for your Thoughts" angry callers talked about ways to "get back at the Indians who did this (removed the mascot)" spoke disparagingly of drunk Indians, and called for revenge on anti-Chief activist professor Stephen Kaufman.
9. Lawrence Eppley, the Chair of the UI Board of Trustees who handed down the decision to remove the Chief Illiniwek mascot, said in 2003 (before the NCAA decision) "Logically and historically, it is really tough to build a case for having in (Illiniwek). It's likely a Boy Scout dance, at best. It's a matter of when, rather than if Illiniwek will be retired."
10. A group of young white men who have played Indian as Chief Illiniwek mascots have formed an non-profit organization which is trying to get the multi-million dollar Chief Illiniwek trademark donated to them by the UI so they can continue "the Chief Illiniwek tradition."
TRUE. The UI appears ready hand it over to them so that they can continue the tradition of cashing in on racism.
So how did you do?
If you said, false to any of the above, we suggest you read "Dancing at Halftime: Sports and the Controversy over American Indian Mascots" by Carol Spindel where she lays out a historical, rather than hysterical perspective on the Chief.
Here are a few quotes from "Dancing at Halftime":
"Myths are complex narratives in which human cultures stabilize and encode their deepest ambivalences. There is no deeper American ambivalence than our feelings about how we acquired the land we love ... Ambivalent about the truth, we turn to myths like Starved Rock and mascots like Osceola and Chief Illiniwek to reconcile the contradiction between our aspirations and our history."
"The old 'mammy' Aunt Jemima has become the province of collectors ... but an American Indian identity is still a commodity that can be taken on, as if it belonged to everyone."
And finally ... the word of a child upon meeting a real Native American for the first time "But Indians aren't real, they're all dead."