November 17, 2008

Dance, clown, dance!

Large crowd gathers at Assembly Hall for Chief's 'Next Dance'For just over four minutes on a cold, windy Saturday, Chief Illiniwek was back.

As a dozen protesters rallied outside, thousands of supporters rallied inside at the Assembly Hall on Saturday afternoon to watch University of Illinois student Logan Ponce, dressed in a replica Chief Illiniwek costume, dance to the song played by a band of alumni, not the alumni band--an event billed as "The Next Dance."
And:A 4-year-old girl pointed to one of the photographs.

"Look, Mom," she said. "He looks like an Indian."

The bottom two sections of the Assembly Hall soon began to fill with bright orange sweatshirts, and then the chants began.

"I-L-L," one group yelled.

"I-N-I," another yelled back.

Protesters, in the same vein, would yell a similar chant later as the crowds flowed out, replacing the cheer's letters with "R-A-C" and "I-S-T."
And:Roberto Martell, UI student and president of Students for Chief Illiniwek, walked across the floor of the Assembly Hall to cheers.

He paused.

"Students for Chief Illiniwek presents the next dance ... 82 years ago this fall, the University of Illinois established a tradition at the university building, a tradition that made Chief Illiniwek the symbol of our great university," he said.

Another pause.

"It was not just a dance at the half-time ... it was a tangible reminder of an intangible spirit. The spirit upon which our great state and our great university were founded. It was the spirit of strength, honesty, loyalty, dignity and truthfulness--attributes that our Native American ancestors embodied, and attributes that everyone today can aspire to," he continued.

"While University of Illinois officials retired Chief Illiniwek in February 2007, it can never ..." He paused as the crowd booed. "... Ever, ever, ever, retire the values for which he stands ..." Another pause as, this time, cheers erupted. "... And that is what we are today to celebrate," he concluded.
Comment:  So the students are celebrating "honesty" by lying about the authenticity of Chief Illiniwek? And celebrating "dignity" by watching a toe-touching clown mock the dignity of real Indian chiefs? Nice.

The 4-year-old girl was arguably the wisest person at the event. She (mis)understood that the garishly attired and painted Chief Illiniwek was supposed to represent a real Indian. Although she was wrong about the clownish stereotype, at least she stated this "fact" plainly. She didn't hide behind the organizers' dishonest double-talk.

In reality, the main "value" Chief Illiniwek stands for is a Eurocentric attitude of superiority over Indians. In other words, a racist attitude toward them. The sooner the students realize this, the better.

For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.

2 comments:

Melvin Martin said...

Question: Is professional ass-kissing a prerequisite for all of the degree programs at that university?

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"Mommy, I Want a Indian Doll!"

White Americans desperately cling to their Indian iconography as possessing these things "binds them to this great land."

Years ago, I managed an apartment complex that was situated just a few blocks from California State University, Los Angeles. Although most of the renters there were students, a handful of retirees rounded out the tenant list.

There was an old (white) "crazy guy" who occupied the unit directly above mine who claimed to be Sitting Bull's "son." His diet consisted mainly of raw hamburger and black coffee that was made "cowboy-style." He dressed exactly like Howdy Doody, and he wore his long white hair in thick braids.

The Indian icon that was his most cherished possession was a brown plastic blow-up doll rigged to resemble an "Indian princess."

This leather mini-skirted doll was mounted high up on his living room wall with both arms flayed out, the right hand clenching a wooden toy bow and in the doll's left hand was a bunch of toy arrows. A small plastic "peace pipe" jutted stiffly from the doll's perfectly shaped "O" of a mouth.

One afternoon, the rubber room boys came to take Sitting Bull's Son to the nearest mental health observation unit as he had been capriciously mooning some of the co-eds at the apartment for two days in a row. He refused to leave unless his Indian Love Maiden was allowed to go with him on his journey (that turned out to be a one-way trip, much to my relief).

Anyway, this man's younger sister was there to supervise his departure at which time she told me that the last time he was carted away, he nearly died from loneliness as the hospital staff confiscated the doll.

And, as I watched this funny little old man make his way to the awaiting ambulance, I did notice that he held onto the doll so tightly that it probably would have required at least four of the big beefy attendants to wrestle his girlfriend away from him.

Oh, America, how you do love Indians.

Rob said...

Great story, Melvin. This guy sounds like the perfect metaphor for the typical American who "loves" Indians. If you gave Wahoo or Illiniwek lovers a doll to clutch, I'm sure you'd have to pry it out of their cold, dead hands.