Friday, February 23, 2007

Bordering on Prolificacy*

I don’t see many movies in the theatre so I’m usually a year behind at Oscar time. But here’s what I do know about this year’s competition. Maggie Gylelehyaleonl (sic, I think) should have been nominated for her performance in Sherrybaby. I didn’t like the ending to the Departed, Scorsese went a little heavy with the execution-style killings, but overall it was good. I went into my viewing of Little Miss Sunshine with too high of expectations and was somewhat disappointed. Although they didn’t distinguish themselves in any performances this past year, I hope the show’s producers have the good sense to include a special tribute, including a 15-minute video montage, to the two finest actresses of all time:


I won’t speculate on what events may have lead to the demise of Brian and Kellie in the morning, although it’s clear that Dave wields a powerful and vengeful sword when crossed. There’s a pretty impressive display of support for the delightful couple over in the comments section of the SJ-R’s report of their ouster. I’m puzzled, however, by those who said how funny the two morning hosts were. Based on what I had heard while passing through the dial, Brian and Kellie were funny in the same way that Oprah is funny, which is not very. Affable and pleasant for sure. Good-humoured, but not really humorous. I think that we humans have the ability to detect when somebody is trying to be funny and for some of us, that’s good enough to let go with a chuckle.

I shed no tears for the chief, mostly because I’m not an Illini fan. If it really is offensive to those who might legitimately be offended, then I suppose it’s for the best. Just don’t claim, as the NCAA does, that the way the chief depicted Indian culture was “hostile and abusive.” You can be insensitive, even prejudice, and not really mean to be. But to rise to the level of hostile and abusive, intent to inflict harm is required. And I don’t think anyone could argue that the school was purposely trying to demean Indians.

Bona fide bloggers spat upon their bogus brethren who use their blogs as a marketing tool, especially if they’re trying to entice readers to join them in being swindled in a Ponzi scheme. It’s true that I will occasionally pitch my freelance writing services here, but I don’t claim that hiring me will promote weight loss, provide financial independence, or enhance “intimacy” in the bedroom. Although, I’m not certain that won’t be the case either. So if you or someone you know is in need of any type of business or editorial copy, click on the little ad to the right and soon you’ll be living the life you’ve always dreamed of.

My favorite line of the week comes from Stephen Metcalf, writing for If you like the Police, but find Sting to be a bit of a wanker and think his solo work is perfect background music for people who do pottery while mourning the loss of their boyfriend, Patrick Swayze, then you should appreciate this:

Copeland, who founded the band and whose intricately manic polyrhythms define
its sound, prevented Sting from impressing too much of his character on its
music. Unyoked from Copeland, Sting was free to become what he is today:
one-third spirit in the material world, two-thirds scented candle.

I really wish I’d come up that line. I bet Brian and Kellie’s fans wouldn’t find it funny.

*This is the second post this week. Damn impressive.


Dave said...

If you get too much freelance work how am I going to hold the awesome powers of my blog over you? Hmmmm, I may have to dabble in the dark arts of blog homewrecking and sewage back up.

The Abstract Prosaic said...

The last movie I saw in a theater was "Cars" at the drive-in last summer.

And by "finest," do you mean the traditional defition or the more modern definition?

Stanley Eisen said...

"If it really is offensive to those who might legitimately be offended, then I suppose it’s for the best."

Who decides if it is really offensive? That is the problem I have with this whole thing. It is a subjective argument.

Are there Indian tribes somewhere that are being truly harmed by the U of I's use of the Chief? Has the Chief caused them to miss a buffalo hunt and thus their tribe goes hungry and bare? Has the Chief prompted a bunch of stupid Illini fans to trespass on their property in search of some "trinkets" that they can take back to their homes in Champaign? If so then I will concede that there is a problem. However, I don't see it. Maybe I'm missing something, but in our litigious society don't you think that if there was some real harm being done to Indians by the Chief that a lawyer somewhere would have already found a kind judge to heap loads of U of I's money on into their teepees?

I am an Illini fan (as anyone who lives in Illinois should be - at least to a small degree - it is possible to root for more than one college team Dan) but in the end if the Chief doesn't dance it really doesn't matter to me. What does matter to me is that a very small minority of people have created an illusion that their lives are being damaged by the Chief and forced it down the throat of the majority via the backdoor.

Go Saluki's!!!!!!!

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


Please know that my comments were made with the utmost respect, Don Blog.


We are men of action, I think we all know a fine actress when we see one.


I agree with your point about who gets to determine what is offensive, and my nonchalance about the outcome has more to do with my becoming bored with the subject than agreeing with the outcome.

I read an article in one of the Chicago papers and they interviewed several Indian leaders, the majority of whom didn't find the Chief offensive. They did have suggestions for how the portrayal could be improved, but they weren't of the mind that he had to go.

I think the main problem revolves around the term "mascot". Wisconsin has a big Beaver. Minnesota has a fighting Gopher. Purdue has a lantern-jawed freak with a sledge hammer. When you put the Chief in that crowd, then yes, the depiction does seem demeaning to Indians.

It really doesn't matter I suppose.


Yellowdog said...

Im quite bored by all the city conflicts. Its much a he said what she said cry baby situation from what I can see. How about more important issues that we can actually take care of and change? Can we talk about those here?

brunettechicagogal said...

I am peeing my pants laughing over that comment about Sting.

As for the Chief, perhaps I misunderstood Stanley Eisen's point about this being a subjective argument, but I understood him to mean that offensive is in the eye of the beholder. If that's what he meant, I don't understand how he can conclude that. Why would it be up to anyone but Native Americans to decide whether the mascot is offensive. How could anyone who's NOT Native American possibly judge that?

Stanley Eisen said...


Show me one example where Native Americans suffered harm either financially or physically because of the Chief and I will jump on the "hate the Chief bandwagon." You can't because there are none.

Just because one very, very tiny group finds something offensive doesn't mean it actually is. The people in Jonestown thought that drinking the kool-aid was a good idea too.

Hypothetically I will show you the error in your thinking.

You say because some Native Americans think the Chief is offensive then it is so. Right?

Well I know of a group of people who HATE brunettes.....therefore... start dyeing!

Why not? They find it offensive so it must be so. Get rid of all brunettes!!!! quickly so that our lives can become great again.

Gosh, I'll bet the status of the American Indian is going to skyrocket now, now that that dastardly Chief is gone! Why, they might even be able to open some successful casinos somewhere in the U.S.

Stanley Eisen said...

Furthermore, some Native Americans have gone on record saying that the Chief is not offensive to them. So what is your argument now?

That's why it is subjective. This is not a case of men claiming to know what it is like to breastfeed. This is a case of a small group who bullied the NCAA into a horrible decision based on an intangible argument.

Bottom line: no harm, no foul.

brunettechicagogal said...

Stanley, brunettes and Native Americans are apples and oranges. Brunettes as a group were not forced off the land that they inhabited for years, nor have brunettes as a group been oppressed in other ways.

Why does the harm or offense have to be boiled down to financial or physical matters? There's something called institutional racism, and its effects are definitely harmful.

And by your logic (I use that term loosely), offense depends on whether a large group is offended versus a small group. First, how large is large, and how small is small? And second, I'm guessing that you're probably not a member of any social minority; otherwise, I can't imagine you'd even put forth such a narrow-minded argument.

As for the Native Americans interviewed who said the mascot isn't offensive, I'd like to see that survey be re-done in an empirical manner with a bigger sample size (how many were interviewed? Five? Ten? Twenty?), and I'd also like to see how the questions were phrased.

One more thing: You say the NCAA's decision was a "horrible thing." For whom? That seems like a pretty gross overstatement. More horrible, in my opinion, is the lack of ability on the part of some people to look beyond their own circumstances.

Stanley Eisen said...


You're funny.

I guess when I saw the Indian (screw calling them Native Americans) on TV saying, "Chief Illiniwek is not offensive to me" we should have checked with you first to see if it was OK to believe him. How conceded are you? I can hear someone say something but you must interpret it for me? Thanks, but no thanks.

I guess you are an Indian and that is why you feel for them right? If your not, by your logic, you can't understand what they are feeling and therefore should just stay out of the debate. Does that make sense?

And as far as oppression and racism is concerned show me just one example of how the Chief is doing that to the Indians in question. Just one and I will be a happy, silent man.

I asked you to show me how the Indians are being harmed by the Chief and you responded with "institutional racism?" Good answer.

There is no doubt the American Indians got screwed. But do you really think that by getting rid of sports symbols, particularly ones that are not cartoonish, the Indian race will again flourish? It will take way more than that.

There are many, upon many people who think the Chief glorifies the American Indian. But I guess those people aren't as smart as you. Thank God you are here to tell us like it really is, cuz wee too dum.

nancy said...

Let's try this as a hypothetical:

A person visits a blog and is a regular commenter. Let's call him Dwight. Dwight exists on this blog as an educated, conservative, respectable person with his own ideas and some experiences that makes him very interesting and a worthy contributor.

Let's say there's another commenter named Jim, a liberal who enjoys picking apart Dwight's arguments.

Dwight and Jim good-naturedly rip apart each others logic. One day, however, Jim crosses a line and is no longer accurately portraying Dwight's viewpoints, and is instead exaggerating them for sinister purposes at the expense of Dwight's blogosphere reputation.
As well as, perhaps, his real life since some people know him by his real name, Funky Boy.

Dwight takes offense at the comments and tries to clarify himself. The thousands of readers of the blog are enjoying the misrepresentation for its entertainment purposes, but Dwight and his family ( a huge minority in numbers compared to the blog's readership) are unhappy with the false depiction of Dwight as something he's not just for the purpose of sick public consumption.

Dwight demands clarification from Jim as he's highly offended by the remarks. Jim is twisting Dwight's words so that they are no longer his, but a tool in making him look bad. The blog readers contend that the defamation of Dwight's character is all done in fun and insist that it is out of total respect for him, and besides it just makes for good blog reading.

Jim's fans (Ha! "Jim's fans".As if. Funny.)are even able to find a couple of Dwight's own distant relatives (Pam, Angela, Creed and Toby) who will admit they see nothing really wrong with the incorrect depiction of Dwight, especially since he's suffered no physical or economic consequences in the offending comments. It's just his silly reputation.

Despite this lack of tangible damage, Dwight and his family, the only ones really negatively affected by Jim's off-base, almost name-calling, are left struggling to answer the question of why it should stop when it is so entertaining to the masses?

They feel it is wrong that Dwight is being portrayed as racist or elitist when that is not at all what he is. It is something perpetuated by Jim and has no historical context in what Dwight is.

Should the majority get to rule here and continue to make Dwight out to be something he's not? Even in the anonymous, cowardly world of blogging, it doesn't seem that this should be allowed to continue.

Luckily Jim had an attack of conscience, apologized for portraying Dwight in a way that was not accurate and went into semi-retirement from blogging in order to not only stop misrepresenting others, but also to keep from further embarrassing himself.

Yes, we are a litigious society. But more so, we are a selfish society that doesn't think anything should be taken from us just because it might be offensive to a minority of others. The Chief's ouster is not a matter of political correctness. It's a matter of moral correctness. And no one's asking that the Chief not continue to be a symbol or to represent the Illinewek tribe. He just should no longer be an embarrasing halftime show.

I think Brunette summed it up perfectly when she said "More horrible, in my opinion, is the lack of ability on the part of some people to look beyond their own circumstances."

nancy said...

One more thing Stanley:

You said "I guess when I saw the Indian (screw calling them Native Americans) on TV saying, "Chief Illiniwek is not offensive to me" we should have checked with you first to see if it was OK to believe him."

You are firmly on record numerous times citing your mistrust of the media. In fact, you have gone so far as to call others gullible for believing anything they see in the media. So this "Indian" that you saw on TV, hmmm.... I'm not so sure. Maybe it was an actor.

You're not using the irresponsible media to back up your argument and then discounting it when others use it to back up theirs are you?

Stanley Eisen said...


I knew someone would bring up the "false Indian" thing.

This is Nancy? Right?

By the way, where is Dan? Oh Dan, there is a blog going on here, maybe you might want to wade in?

Stanley Eisen said...

I still have yet to see an example of how the Indians have been hurt by the Chief. Just one.....still waiting.........


nancy said...


Show ME an example of how you're hurt that the Chief is gone (financially or physically, of course).


BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Okay, I'll weigh-in on the pro-Chief side, even though I don't really care who or what the U of I uses as a symbol for their corrupt and shameful sports teams.

Kathy said and Nancy seconded:
More horrible, in my opinion, is the lack of ability on the part of some people to look beyond their own circumstances.

While I agree that it is important to walk a mile in another person's shoes before attempting to speak for his experience, I'm not sure that sentiment is what drove the opposition to the chief.

From what I’ve read, the chief opposition to the Chief has come from the NCAA and certain people, including faculty, within the University. I haven’t heard an overwhelming outcry from the people whose circumstances we are supposedely being considerate of.

I have heard individual opinions from Indians who oppose the Chief, but I’ve also heard others who don’t have a problem with him.

I don’t know if anyone has every conducted a poll of descendents of the Illiniwek Confederation to see if there is a majority position on this issue, but if there were strong opposition, that certainly would make me more comfortable that the decision to dismiss the Chief was made for the right reason, and not just to appease those who feel they have to serve as society’s conscience.

I'd like to hear Nancy and Kathy's opinion of the Seminole Indians, who have reached an agreement with Florida State University to allow the school to have a student, in full warrior regalia, plant a burning spear into the center of the football field before home games. Are they responsible for desecrating their own heritage? If not, how is this situation different?

Thanks for commenting,

nancy said...


Similar to how I feel about the U of I Chief, I believe it is up to the tribe's descendants to determine if their ancestry is being accurately represented. If the Seminoles have reached an agreement, then I can only assume that the full regalia is consistent with their tribal history (or that they sold out for a whole lotta $$$, but hey, it's theirs to sell). Since I don't pretend to know what is appropriate for the Illini or Seminoles, I'll leave it up to them.

As I understand it, there are no original Illiniwek left so the descendants probably didn't have a strong enough voice to do it on their own, and that's when faculty, students and the NCAA got involved as advocates. That doesn't diminish the credibility of the cause in my mind.

But here is what I honestly see as the bigger problem - the opposition. I have a hard time believing that all of the non-Native American Chief supporters truly have an emotional attachment to this mascot. Rather I think it is a large group of bullies trying to intimidate yet another minority for daring to speak up for themselves.

In your original post, Dan, you admitted that it really doesn't make a difference to you. I know it really doesn't make a difference to me and I honestly think Stanley's not losing sleep over it, feeling it as a personal loss. If there are some people truly devastated by the Chief's retirement, that their lives will be compromised by this decision, what can I say? I wish I had your problems.

For the people to whom the Chief as a symbol really does matter, the descendants of the Illinewek, I am profoundly happy that it worked out this way.

Stanley Eisen said...


Show ME an example of how you're hurt that the Chief is gone (financially or physically, of course).


Precisely! The Chief doesn't hurt anyone. Whether he is there or not, no one suffers. If someone is offended by it, don't watch it or turn your back.

This is the same thing as parents complaining because of bad things their kids are seeing on TV. Set the parental controls, monitor your kids, change the channel, or just turn it off! all of the choices will work. Same with the Chief's dance, don't watch! It's not like cigarette smoke that affects those who do not wish to partake. This is something that is easily avoided by those it "offends." And since it is a source of pride and inspiration to the supporters how can it be seen as a bad thing? Do U of I fans walk up to Indians and say, "dance boy! just like that there Chief Illiniwek!"

Like Dan said, if you could show me a legitimate poll (not one done by CBS) of Indians who overwhelmingly thought that the Chief disparaged their race then I might be swayed. Until then it is just a small special interest group that has gotten its way and the result will do absolutely nothing for them.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


Rather I think it is a large group of bullies trying to intimidate yet another minority for daring to speak up for themselves.

Are you sure about that? The NCAA was putting the most pressure on the school not some small minority of brave Indians.

Let me ask you this: Do you find the Chief's dance offensive? If so, why?

I believe that it isn't authentic because someone who would know much better than I said so. But for a long time I thought it was a faithful reenactment of a traditional dance.

But even if it isn't authentic, it certainly isn't a parody and the fans don't point their fingers and laugh at the crazy dancin' Injun.

You said you had no problem with the FSU mascot because he is consistent with Seminole history. If Illinois had changed the dance to be consistent with Illiniwek tradition, would you then support the Chief.

Thanks for commenting,

nancy said...


Your example is absurd. A taxpayer funded school is not the same as TV. When your local taxpayer funded PBS station begins showing porn 24 hours a day, then your argument holds water. Though I'm sure that would be popular in some segments, I'd be against that too!

I could never show you a legitimate poll (CBS or otherwise) in support of the NCAA ruling that would change your mind because you would dismiss it outright for its findings.

"And since it is a source of pride and inspiration to the supporters how can it be seen as a bad thing?"

But if it is a source of embarrassment to the people it's supposed to represent, how can it be seen as a good thing?

I wonder how you would feel if the next mascot were a kid dressed up in an SPD uniform, stuffing donuts in his face, swinging a baton around and randomly arresting black people in the stands after going through some garbage cans? I'll bet some people would find it very entertaining. That's all that matters, right? And there's probably a fair share of Springfield residents who would be proud of that representation of their men in blue.

I realize that's a gross exaggeration of the Chief's actual offensiveness, but similar to the Chief, it is an incorrect stereotype based at least somewhat on some highly interpreted "historically accurate" facts that were allowed to run amok, all for the purpose of entertainment.


I would be 100% in support of any efforts made by the U of I in conjunction with a Native American group that was interested in making the Chief an authentic representation. There was a very thoughtful letter to the editor in today's paper suggesting that very thing.

I'm interested to know what you and Stanley believe is the motivation for the Chief's ouster, if not a real belief that it is a racist misrepresentation of Native Americans? Do the descendants of the Illinewek tribe stand to gain ANYTHING in this mess other than their pride? If anything, I would think they might suffer a loss, since I believe that most Chief supporters do not harbor any ill will towards Native Americans. This movement perhaps could change that.

If there are in fact lawsuits seeking damages from the Chief's performances I would think that would diminish the integrity of the ouster and I would have to reconsider my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I hope all of you who have spent so much time arguing in support of Chief Illiniwek will take 5 minutes to read the following letter sent to the U of I Board of Trustees from Jay Rosenstein. Jay is a UIUC alum and the creator of the controversial documentary "In Whose Honor."


Rock Robster said...

I love watching racists panic and squirm as their beloved and bigoted stereotypes are removed from their vitriolic grasp!

-Rock Robster

Anonymous said...

Rock Robster 10:56-nice comment. You kiss your kids with that mouth?

Stanley Eisen said...


Why would I care what they do with the Springfield Police???????

Once again, I have asked anyone to show any specific harm being done to the American Indians by the Chief and you have failed to respond with nothing but conjecture. This is a subjective argument. I don't accept what I have seen and heard so far from those who want to get rid of the Chief as being a valid reason for removing him as a symbol. Just as I am sure you do not accept any explanation from the Bush administration in regard to their stance on Iraq. Its all a matter of personal beliefs and what side of the fence one tends to reside on.

Your points are equally absurd to me. So there! (I am now sticking out my tongue)


I am supposed to be swayed by a letter from an obviously left-leaning letter writer? Funny that he mentions in his letter the fact that the U of I faculty is against the Chief. Hmmmm, lets see here, a major universities’ faculty supporting a minority argument against the majority establishment? Isn’t that what they are expected to do? I pride myself on being in the opposition of what the majority of a college faculty do and believe.

Wonderful argument but I think we have said all that needs to be said on this issue.

Anonymous said...

I have a good money making idea that capitalizes on this situation.

It is obvious that the "Save the Chief" t-shirt business is about all out of steam. Here is how to revive it:

Have one member of U of I's school of art dress as the Chief and perform their own "interpretive" dance at each U of I sporting event. Then at the end of the "performance" he/she, in their full artistic glory, will do something shocking like urinate on the floor. All in the name of "art."

Here is where the money is made.

In response to the outrage from the sane U of I fans at the disgusting display, print up thousands of "Save the Chief" t-shirts.

Now sit back and watch all the left-leaners (former "get rid of the Chief" crowd) snap them up in order to "save the arts." Its a gold mine.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Anon 6:12,

I'm intrigued. Put the Chief in the hands of a performance artist and then any objection would be seen as censorship and an affront to artistic expression.


The only logical motivation for removing the Chief is because a majority of Indians are offended by him, similar to how a majority of blacks are offended by white actors performing in blackface.

But from what I've read, the anti-Chief movement doesn't appear to be sparked by an outraged Indian community. If I’m wrong about this, then I’ll take back everything I’ve said or will say.

I think that some of the motivation from those pale faces (oops) that did spearhead (oops again) the opposition comes from their need to be morally superior and to speak on behalf of minorities that they believe aren’t smart enough to be offended on their own.

I also think that some of the motivation derives from the same insatiable need to be outraged that causes people to bitch about the death of Christmas each Holiday season.

And finally, some of the motivation is general concern for their fellow man, but again, the voice of their fellow man, in this case Indians, is the only one that really counts.

Rock Robster,

Explain to me how the Chief is racist.

Is it how he is portrayed, who is portraying him, or is the very idea of using an Indian as a mascot for a school offensive regardless of how he is portrayed (in which case the Seminole tribe is stricken with terminal self-hatred)?

As I’ve said, I’m not angry or sad to see the Chief go, I just question the motivations that led to his dismissal and believe that the accusation that the Chief is hostile and abusive is ridiculous.

In the Sun Times last week there was an article in which several tribal leaders said they had no problem with the Chief. Granted, they don’t speak for every Indian, but if they don’t find it racist, why would you?

Thanks for commenting and please know that I hold you in the highest esteem and that I enjoy these debates on an intellectual level. There is no harboring of ill feelings and I will still buy you a beer if you show up at the next Movie Geeks Club.


nancy said...

Anon 5:43

While I'm sure Rock Robster appreciates your "nice comment" compliment, I think it is an understatement as his was a beautifully crafted response to the thousands of Chief supporters who are getting hysterical as if someone has taken away their KKK action figures. But to answer your question, Yes. He kisses his kids with that mouth.


I suppose if you think we've said everything that needs to be said, than OK, Mr. O'Reilly. The fact of the matter is, you can demand to know how the Chief is offensive until you're blue in the face and it doesn't matter, because he's gone. When you make comments like "I pride myself on being in the opposition of what the majority of a college faculty do and believe." you reveal yourself to be not so much "Pro-Chief" as anti-"anti Chief".

There are a lot of similarities between your resistance to acknowledge any kind of minority discrimination and my quick-to-the-draw defense of almost all claims. I think we could both use some more research in forming our opinions rather than our usual canned responses to such issues. It's become so predictable, it's boring.

I've read some compelling articles in support of the Chief. I can appreciate people who have taken the time to give reasons why the Chief is not racist, because I believe they truly care that he's not portrayed that way. Saying simply that he isn't racist because you don't know how someone could be physically or financially affected isn't enough.

Stanley Eisen said...


You said: "you reveal yourself to be not so much "Pro-Chief" as anti-"anti Chief"."

Exactly. I have already said that in an earlier response.

"but in the end if the Chief doesn't dance it really doesn't matter to me. What does matter to me is that a very small minority of people have created an illusion that their lives are being damaged by the Chief"

Maybe if you would bother to actually read what I post there would not be the need for such a lengthy "boring" debate.

nancy said...


Point taken.


I appreciate your concerns that maybe it's not Native Americans who are so concerned about the Chief, but rather a bunch of wannabe moral superiors. I actually struggle with this notion. It's not an attractive image to act better than someone else or to act like I know more or am more ethical. I realize that's how I come off and I definitely do my share to project that image, but my position is honestly rooted in a belief that I am most certainly NOT better than anyone else and I try to understand the challenges of being born anything but white in America.

I think a lot of the Chief debate can be compared to the smoking ban, which I believe you and Stanley both came out in support of. Why should we be asked to just not attend UofI games if the Chief offends, and not take the same attitude when choosing whether or not to patronize restaraunts that allow smoking?

Maybe the ouster of the Chief really is protecting people that don't know he is perpetuating stereotypes, or, "protecting us from ourselves".

You will find research debunking the dangers of second hand smoke just as you will find research saying that the Chief is an honorable representation of the Illinewek tribe. I've no doubt that you read about a group of American Indian chiefs who had no problem with the Chief, just as you probably read letters to the editors from non-smokers against the smoking ban. It's newsier. But just as there are thousands who are for the smoking ban, there are thousands who are in support of the Chief's removal. But in the interest of keeping the news more compelling, it's going to be the "Native Americans for the Chief" and "Non-Smokers Against the Ban" that are more likely to get the coverage and the headline.

That's it for me, although I will happily read any responses and think hard about them, as I do every time. Seriously, this has kept me up at night. Must....sleep.......

Rock-Robster said...


You asked me to explain to you how the Chief is racist. OK, that is a simple straight forward question. To fully address the issue I culled though the masses of research available – and while I have done my best to paraphrase where appropriate I none the less feel the need to apologize in advance for the length of this response -

Here we go . . .

Let’s start with our terms. Merriam-Webster defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits” and the word discrimination comes from the Latin "discriminare", which means to "distinguish between.” However, what we’re talking about is more than distinction or differentiation; it is action based on prejudice resulting in unfair treatment of people. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution says that no state can deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law. While there is no identical provision applicable to the federal government, this right to equal protection is interpreted to apply to the federal government by virtue of the Fifth Amendment's guarantee that the federal government shall not deprive a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Equal protection, in its simplest definition, means that laws are supposed to protect people equally. So what we are dealing with in the UIUC case is the all–to-common instance of racism leading to discrimination (and that, Stanley, addresses your issue of damage) which is not only immoral, it is illegal. The Chief is the symbol of our state (let us not forget that the UIUC is, as a state university, subject to the control of the Illinois General Assembly and subject to the limitations of the state constitution – meaning that it is a state agency, therefore it’s symbols are de facto the symbols of our state) and I won’t accept a racist stereotype to be the emblem of my state. But I guess others disagree with me there . . .

Still not convinced the Chief is racist? I didn’t think so, let’s keep going . . .

The "Chief" is not authentic. His dance and costume are derived from a 1926 Boy Scout project and the music was written by the UIUC band director using Hollywood beats. Even if the "Chief's" performance were authentic, it would still be inappropriate for a non-Native to perform it at a college sporting event. The "Chief" makes the UIUC a hostile environment for many Native people, and therefore impedes true education about Native culture on the UIUC campus. Native activists and people of conscience have repeatedly suggested that education about Native culture necessitates, first and foremost, the elimination of the "Chief," as well as the establishment of a Native Studies Program, and Cultural House (neither of which currently exist), more Native scholars, and more scholarships for Native students.

Here’s a fact for you to consider: Every national Native organization that has taken a stance on the issue has called for the elimination of the "Chief," including: the American Indian Council of Illinois, the American Indian Education Association, the American Indian Movement, the Cherokee Nation, the National Congress of American Indians (, and the Peoria Tribe. So, while you might not get this info watching NewsChannel 20 – the fact is that the call for the Chief’s ouster is coming wholeheartedly from American Indians themselves - and not just some generic “morally superior” group.

The Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma are the closest living descendants of the Illiniwek Confederacy, having been relocated to Oklahoma in the 19th century. In April 2000, the tribal council passed a resolution requesting "the leadership of the University of Illinois to recognize the demeaning nature of the characterization of Chief Illiniwek, and cease use of this mascot".

Chief Ron Froman was later quoted as saying "I don't know what the origination was, or what the reason was for the university to create Chief Illiniwek. I don't think it was to honor us, because, hell, they ran our (butts) out of Illinois." This puts Chief Illiniwek in a position different from that of the mascots of other schools such as FSU, whose Native American mascots are not opposed by the leadership of the corresponding tribes. In 2006, Chief, John P. Froman, wrote a letter reiterating the Peoria Tribe's opposition to the symbol and decrying that the "University of Illinois has ignored the tribe’s request for nearly five years."

This brings us to the effects of school mascots on a society that has already displayed its tendency toward racism. Using a race of people, or a representation of a race of people for a mascot, sends a strong signal that it is alright to belittle and insult that race. There need not be a feeling of hate involved, but just a feeling of one race being "better" than another. In some cases, this can and obviously does, lead to a feeling of hate. Psychologists have studied this mascot issue and the affects on both the Indian children, and on the non-Indian children. As one would expect, Indian children in a learning environment where an "Indian" mascot is in use, have the worst problems. They are not as apt to join in with classroom activities, nor with sports activities. It creates an environment that deprives these children of an equal learning opportunity. It also affects the self esteem of these children. The non-Indian children quite frankly, learn racism. They also, because of the mascot, learn of a stereotype image of Indian people that hinders their learning about present day Indians. In other words, both the Indian children and the non-Indian children are injured by the affects of the mascot, but in slightly different ways. The only answer possible to this problem is to remove the racist mascots and stereotypes.

Charlene Teters, a founding member of the board of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media and a Spokane American Indian, states “There is no acceptable level of racism . . . people often argues that to have a national sports team named after them should be considered a great honor.” But it is Teters’ position that reducing the tribal leadership position of chief to a mascot and then displaying that mascot on clothing and trinkets to be sold “does not feel like honor or respect to us.” The chief, she noted, is the highest political position in any tribe and American Indians have great respect for their chiefs. Native Americans do not feel welcome at the stadium or on campuses where that respected figure is portrayed as a grinning caricature or where the team name evokes a deeply painful image to American Indians.

UIUC's official mascot and symbol, "Chief Illiniwek" is, therefore, a racist representation of Native people created by non-Natives for the halftime entertainment and profit of non-Native people. It undermines Native peoples' right to self-determination by appropriating sacred aspects of Native political and religious culture. It has no place in a state sponsored event - or as the logo of one of our state agencies. The "Chief's" performance is just as offensive to Native Americans as the Little Black Sambo and Amos & Andy stereotypes are to African American people. By mocking Native culture, the UIUC sets a dangerous precedent for racist representation of all other social and ethnic groups targeted for oppression.


(Rock) Rob(ster)

nancy said...


Just one more thing. As we (Rob and I)continue to learn more about the Chief and what he represents to the Native American community we are being forced to face the issue of our own 10 year old son's obsession with the U of I. He has sweatshirts and hats bearing the Chief's symbol. Our kids have worn Halloween costumes that we now know they shouldn't have. We will take the time to teach our children about these things and continue to learn from our own mistakes and insensitivities.

There. In the interest of full disclosure, let there be no doubt that we do not feel morally superior to anyone. But we are open-minded enough to learn from our mistakes.

Rock-Robster said...

Here are some excerpts from a really enlightening article on the history of Chief Illinewek and the effect that symbol has on society. It is written by a senior academic advisor and an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. SO, THEREFORE - CONVENIENTLY - NO ONE STANLEY HAS TO LISTEN TO! You can read the entire article here:

Chiefs, Braves, and Tomahawks: The Use of American Indians as University Mascots
by Robert Longwell-Grice & Hope Longwell-Grice
In 1926, assistant band director Ray Dvarak of the University of Illinois conceived of the idea of performing an American Indian dance during halftime of the Illinois–Pennsylvania football game in Philadelphia (Students for Chief Illinewek, 2000). The University of Illinois football coach at the time suggested calling the Indian symbol Chief Illinewek. Chief Illinewek ran onto the field “doing a lively Indian dance,” saluted the Pennsylvania rooters and then smoked a peace pipe with William Penn (impersonated by another University of Illinois student). The crowd loved it and a tradition was born. The Chief has appeared at halftime of every home University of Illinois football game ever since.

The bastardization of traditional and sacred practices is not limited to Chief Illiniwek. Flutes, whistles, and drums are important in Native American ceremonies and are even considered to be spiritual in nature. The use of these instruments and the music that accompanies a mascot performing at a halftime show trivializes their importance and is out of place on the playing field. The wearing of feathers, buckskin, and war paint all lend themselves to an imagery that degrades Native Americans and their culture and distorts people’s perceptions. The symbols mascots use—tomahawks, spears, war whoops, and headdresses—also are a stereotyped vision of Native Americans as savages—and certainly not as a people who are among us today (Pewewardy,1992). All of these images prevent the dominant culture from understanding the historical and current culture of indigenous people. Since the mascot image simply reinforces or affirms our stereotype, the image must have been implanted earlier in our lives. The films we watch and the books we read have grouped Indians into four groups: the noble savage, the generic Indian, the living fossil, and the savage. While serious efforts have been made to raise our collective consciousness, many of these efforts have been undermined by the superficial treatment they receive in school (Charles, 1993).

Given the problems of using Indian mascots as outlined in this article, why would anyone select them as mascots and why do we as spectators and fans support them? One explanation may be that those who created the mascot symbol did not see it as stereotypical or racist in nature. It is only now, with the advantage of years of knowledge and experience, that people are beginning to see these symbols as wrong (Delgado & Stefancic, 1992). Dennis (1981) contends that people engage in racist behavior because they are reasonably sure that there is support for it; and since many of these mascots were created when overt racist acts were common in this country, it should not be altogether surprising that no one spoke up against the use of Indian mascots at the time. In many ways, this reinforces Davis (1989), who says that humans categorize other humans to make sense of their world. Those who initially chose the American Indian mascots were responding to the category they had placed Native Americans into as a result of their own experiences vis-à-vis popular culture and traditional education. Their experiences were rarely firsthand interactions with Native Americans. Little concern was given to whether the mascots selected were portraying a stereotype that could fan the flames of racism or discrimination.

Although some people who support Indian mascots claim that the mascots honor Indians, with little appreciation given for tribal customs or reality, schools have created their own image of the “Indian.” That it is a false image never penetrates the mind of the halftime spectators, since it simply reinforces the mascot they learned in the classrooms and textbooks (Trimble, 1988). Spectators who witness the mascot accept the mascot unconditionally since it reinforces their categorization. Further, since this categorization is subconscious, attempts to un-learn it and confront it are met with defensiveness, hostility, and an unwillingness to consider the possibility that the categorization may result in racist or biased behavior.

Charles, J. (1993). Of mascots and tomahawk chops: Stereotypes of American Indians and the English teacher’s response. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the national teachers of English. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service no. ED 355 535)
Pewewardy, C. D. (2000). Why educators should not ignore Indian mascots. Multicultural perspectives, v2(1).
Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (1992). Images of the outsider in american law and culture: Can free expression remedy systemic social ills? In R. Delgado and J. Stefancic (Eds.), Critical race theory: The cutting edge. Philadelphia: Temple Press.
Davis, P. C. (1989). Law as micro aggression. In R. Delgado and J. Stefancic (Eds.), Critical race theory: The cutting edge. Philadelphia: Temple Press.
Dennis, R. (1981). Socialization and racism: The white experience. In B. P. Bowser and R. G. Hunt (Eds.), Impacts of racism on white Americans (pp. 71–85). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Department of The Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs (2000). Federal Registry, 65(49).
Trimble, J. E. (1988). Stereotypical images, American Indians, and prejudice. In P. A. Katz and D. A. Taylor (Eds.), Eliminating racism: Profiles in controversy. New York: Plenum Press.

Stanley Eisen said...

Wow! Now that's some response.

"There need not be a feeling of hate involved, but just a feeling of one race being "better" than another."

I find this quote a little odd. This holds true even if the minority race in question is being held up, at least in the Chief's case, as being the "better" race? I could see it if it was the other way around but.....

This is pure speculation on my part but how is this theory? Maybe those that support the Chief do so as part of an underlying feeling of guilt over what has happened to the American Indians as a whole. By showing great respect and adulation towards the Chief, and fighting fiercely to keep him, it is a way of saying "I'm sorry."

Once this constant positive reminder of past wrongs is removed from the majorities' consciousness what is left? I'm afraid that by removing the Chief as a symbol it will cause the American Indians' plight to fall further off the majorities' radar of things to care about.

And finally, I appreciate the research on the topic but I am always a little wary of being completely swayed by "research." I have seen research discredited in many cases, which as you know is what it is designed to do - attempt to replicate with varying causal factors. Given the low numbers of American Indians available as a sample I find the psychologist's study of the negative effects of an Indian mascot on Indian school children a little hard to believe. As we have seen through the media, numbers and statistics can be viewed in polar opposites by the various sides of a debate. Here is an example:

What do actual ancestors of the Illini tribes think of Chief Illiniwek?
Over the years, the Chief Illiniwek tradition has had continued endorsement of Native American descendents. Since the tradition's inception in 1926, there has been considerable support for the Chief by Native American leaders, including several that trace their lineage to the original Illini tribes.
In the past two years, the only scientific opinion polls on the subject have concluded that the majority of Native Americans are not opposed to the use of Indian nicknames—at the high school or college level, or in professional sports. In 2002, a Peter Harris Research Group poll showed that 81% of Native Americans support the use of Indian nicknames in high school and college sports, and 83% of Native Americans support the use of Indian mascots and symbols in professional sports. The accompanying commentary concluded that the “poll suggests that although Native American activists are virtually united in opposition to the use of Indian nicknames and mascots, the Native American population sees the issue far differently.”
In September 2004, the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey reported the results of a year-long poll which showed that the vast majority of American Indians say that calling Washington’s professional football team the “Redskins” does not bother them (90% of Indians took that position, while 9% said they found the name “offensive”). Taken from:

As you can see there is much information here that supports one side of this debate. Yet, much like the “research” you have quoted I do not believe this information to be any more credible. There is much room for this information to have been skewed, or falsified for a self-serving purpose.

Whether you like/respect him or not, here is an article from Roger Ebert on the topic:

nancy said...

I think Stanley and I are in agreement on at least one thing: Anyone can find any research to support their beliefs on nearly any subject. But I would just like to point out a few facts from the links he referred us to in his last post.

From the honorthechief site (this has to be the most neutral of them all!):

"Although the original Illini disappeared from the region long ago..." .

"Disappeared" is an interesting choice of words for "run out of town".

According to the site, the Chief's dance " has evolved over the years to make its movements more visible to spectators".

How does the dance of an obsolete tribe "evolve"? Might it have lost some accuracy in the effort to make sure the nosebleed section doesn't miss out on anything?

"Today, Native American gatherings, called
"pow wows," held across this country include elaborate dance competitions in which Native Americans and others who dress as Native Americans dance side-by-side. Prizes may be awarded, not for authenticity or religious intent, but for the beauty of the attire and skill of the dancers."

I'm afraid that proponents of the U of I Chief have used the Indian custom of Pow wows, where they sometimes include non-Indian participants as license to do what they want with the custom in an arena. It's quite a presumption.

Of the U of I Chief's costume:

"The current regalia worn by the Chief is authentic and reflects the dress of the Plains Indians. The Illini tribes were of a much earlier culture, and less is known about their style of dress, however, it is believed to be simpler and less ornate than that used to portray Chief Illiniwek today"

So... why not do the research and make the Chief's dress "simpler and less ornate"?

The Peter Harris poll is another can of worms. There is a lengthy article here

refuting PH Research Group, describing how the poll was used for a controversial Sports Illustrated article. Like I said, it's quite long, but I found this tidbit interesting:

"Fom a poll of 351 Native Americans and 743 sports fans commissioned from the Peter Harris Research Group, supplemented with 10 interviews with Indian and non-Indian individuals, Price concluded first that the majority of indigenous peoples, like sports fans and citizens generally, supported such mascots, and more, that Native American leaders working against these mascots were out of touch with, even disconnected from, their constituents."

That's over twice as many "sports fans" as Native Americans polled!!! Gee, wonder how they got all those pro-Indian mascot numbers?

And in conclusion, whereas I might usually trust Roger Ebert with my film reviews, as a columnist commenting on the Chief, I guess you could say that I have the same reservations that Stanley did with faculty and student opinions, since Ebert is known to be a proud alumni of U of I and supporter of its sports programs. I don't give him any more credence than some lowly student just because he has a cushy gig at the Sun Times. But in order to be fair, I read the column. It's very much what I thought it would be, and that's OK, he has a right to his opinion and he certainly knows how to express it well.

Imagine my surprise however, when I happened upon another of his columns which appeared just NINE DAYS after the one Stanley referenced. It can (and should) be seen here.
Http:// 3/15/01

I have a newfound respect for Ebert. Not because he saw things my way, but because he had the courage to reexamine his hard and fast belief that the Chief was nothing but honorable and thought that there may be room for compromise. I was particularly touched by his biblical quote.