November 22, 2008

The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk

Illinois to retire Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophyIllinois takes another step to distance itself from Native American imagery when the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk trophy will be retired Saturday after the Illinois-Northwestern football game.

The two schools began using a traveling trophy in 1945 to commemorate the series. Win or lose, Northwestern will take permanent control of the trophy.
Sweet Sioux TomahawkThe Sweet Sioux Tomahawk was presented to the winner of the annual college football game between the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. The original trophy was a carved wooden "cigar store" Indian, but was stolen and replaced by a replica of a tomahawk.Comment:  Whew. I'm glad to hear the universities upgraded the trophy from a wooden Indian to a tomahawk. We wouldn't want anyone to think they were stereotyping Indians.

I hadn't heard about this trophy. Did anyone tell the school that tomahawks are associated with the woodland Indians of the East? And not with the Sioux Indians of the Plains?

And what do either the Sioux or a tomahawk have to do with the Fighting Illini of Illinois? Is this another example of "traditional culture"--like the Chief Illiniwek costume donated by a Lakota Sioux? Another example of "honoring" Indians--like the dancing-clown Chief? How does mixing and matching elements from three different tribal regions show respect for Native people?

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

Below:  The actual tomahawk trophy and the annual-game tomahawk logo.

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