chancellor email: No More Chief!

This morning, a "MASSMAIL" to students and employees on campus here at University of Illinois announced that Chief Illiniwek - the controversial Native American symbol and mascot - will be immediately and permanently retired.

Wow.

The e-mail refers all interested parties - soon to be a national audience I'm sure - to the UIllinois website: http://www.uillinois.edu/chief. The site includes the official two-page press release, a public relations authored FAQ, and a scanned copy of the letter from NCAA confirming that the UofI's action will immediately lift the disciplinary ban UofI athletics has been subject to since last April.

The chief has been an ever-present topic of controversy for the last ten years I've been on campus, but protests against the racially stereotypical mascot were occuring long before I arrived.

It took me a while to form a personal opinion on the chief's presence. The University has always insisted the Chief is a honoring remembrance of Native American tradition and "noble spirit." But his image appears on everything from sweatshirts to Illini toilet paper. And the first time I saw the Chief "dance" at halftime in Memorial Stadium, I knew I was going to be what we call around here "anti-chief." While his on-field dance through the ranks of the marching band is supposedly partially authentic, even the University admits that his high leg-kicks were greatly exaggerated for a rowdy athletic crowd.

It just didn't feel to me that the God who made all humans and races would smile on one race using another as entertainment. The process felt dehumanizing and wreaked of subjugation.

Honestly, I'm shocked the Chief is now gone. The pressure of Alumni money seemingly had no match in the controversy: I think most assumed money spoke louder than principle, and the Chief was never in danger of removal. The NCAA pressure apparently turned the tide.

ps - the http://www.uillinois.edu/chief website inappropriately presents it's info only in PDF form. That the site does not first use clear-text html is poor
usability design at best, and - at worst - could be viewed as a deliberate method to obscure this controversial announcement.

pps - Just last week I heard the director of the American Indian Studies program, Dr. Wanda Pillow, speak about our recently established Native American House on campus. Today they released a statement in response to the Chief news, and especially highlight the issue of returning the Chief regalia (mainly the headdress, I think) to a specific Sioux tribe.