October 01, 2009

"Next Dance" is educational?!

Chief to re-emerge at 'Next Dance' amid protests

By Ryan YoungStudents for Chief Illiniwek will host The Next Dance at 7 p.m. Friday at Assembly Hall to commemorate the former mascot of the University, while other students will be protesting the event.

Elyse Eilts, president of Students for Chief Illiniwek and senior in LAS, said she organizes many events throughout the year to promote the Chief tradition and native Illinois culture.

"Our events are meant to be catalysts to promote and educate people about native Illinois culture, not to be offensive towards any group of people," Eilts said.

The Next Dance will include an introduction of the Chief tradition, appearances from former chiefs, the Chief's dance and a speech from Glenn "Red Knife" Barnhill, president of the Grand Village of Kickapoo State Park in Oakwood, Ill.
"To promote the Chief tradition and native Illinois culture"...that's rich. Can you say "contradiction in terms"?

What's the Native component...Barnhill's speech? Is he even an Indian?

Judging by the lineup, the "Next Dance" will be mostly about the phony Chief Illiniwek. How is it educational to promote a fake representation of a Plains chief who never lived in Illinois? A presentation that's 90% false and 10% true doesn't fit my definition of education.

Will Barnhill stand up and say, "Chief Illiniwek is a fraud, a caricature, and a joke. Now let me tell you about the real Illinois Indians"? Not if he wants to raise funds for his village, get invited to the school again, and avoid being pelted with tomatoes. Any self-respecting Indian would boycott or protest the event or use the opportunity to denounce the Chief.

This event is about like having George W. Bush speak on honesty in government or Adolf Hitler speak on Jews. Just accidentally, perhaps 10% of the things he says will be true. For instance, "Our government is founded on the principle of openness [but my administration opposes this view]" or "Jews are everywhere in Germany [until we round them up and exterminate them]."

Ignorant Illiniwek fans

Here's an example of how "educated" Chief Illiniwek's fans are:

Anti-Chief people need to look at themselvesWith “The Next Dance” coming on Oct. 2, campus has seen more of anti-chief material than usual since the chief was retired. I believe that these anti-chief people need to look at themselves.

First off, pretty much all of the people who are against the chief are not Native Americans. They “claim” that the chief is offensive to Native Americans, like the people suing the Washington Redskins claim. Most Native Americans either support or could care less about the chief and the use of the redskins name. So what do we have? These people are the self-appointed political correctness police. Since the chief is not considered “politically correct” by them, they see it as an obsticle that they must remove.

We all can agree that the chief’s dance is not authentic, but this is where the agreements end. Anti-chief people claim that is a negative stereotype of Native Americans, yet there are far worse stereotypes out there. The animated classic Peter Pan from the Walt Disney Company has a real stereotype against Native Americans, yet, as far as I know, none of the anti-chief people has done anything this. The chief is a positive remembrance of Native American culture in Illinois. When we removed it, all references to Native American culture in Illinois have been removed (expect from history).

Jason Motsinger
Junior in Engineering
Some responses to Motsinger's letter:Hilarious!

Did they DI print this simply to demonstrate how poorly certain people write? This letter to the editor is a joke!

"None of the anti-chief people has done anything this" what?

Also, this letter is so inaccurate! It should be a crime to print a letter to the editor filled with unsubstantiated claims (aka lies). The American Indian Studies program did not disappear with the removal of the chief mascot. The Native American House did not disappear with the removal of the chief mascot. Nor did any of the Native American students on this campus that are unanimously anti-chief mascot disappear from the State of Illinois--not to mention the hundreds to thousands living in communities across this state.

Did I also mention that the Native American House and American Indian Studies have continuously issued statements against the chief mascot?

Also, the Peoria (the remaining "Illini") have clearly stated they are against the chief mascot and find it offensive. The Oglala Sioux--the tribe from which the mascot gets its costume--have also stated they no longer want SCFI to use their regalia and are anti-chief.

Has the Chiefers not heard or read of anything this?

Since you are not Native

Since you are not Native American, who are you to speak for people of that descent and say how they feel? There certainly are people who feel offended by it, and why would an upstanding university want to keep something around like that?

I am sick of this sh*t---you

I am sick of this sh*t--you lily white mofos with severe entitlement complexes need to get the funk out of the 19th century! And while you are at it--get over yourself!

YOU do NOT own the imagery of the indigenous people of this continent--if you are so damn gung-ho about worshiping a cartoon mascot, then make one for yourself based on the demographics of YOUR people ... I have one for you--the Illinois Babies ... since you can't grow the funk up and STOP playing Indian!

THIS Cherokee wishes you nothing but ill as long as you continue to desecrate and DIShonor my people.

Only the victim can stand up for themselves?

If only victims can stand up for themselves, then a right-to-life supporter really has no argument since they are not a fetus. Is that the message this Junior at one of the greatest institutions of higher learning wants to send?
Rob's reply

Are you serious, Junior? A lot of Natives oppose Chief Illiniwek. If they're outnumbered by non-Natives, that's only because non-Natives make up about 99% of the US population.

Why shouldn't non-Natives denounce your stereotypical depictions of Indians? Do you think racism is something only minorities care about? Your asinine "political correctness" translates to: "We assert our white privilege to mock and trivialize other people. In particular, to mock and trivialize Indians as animated trophies. And we'll demonize anyone who dares to criticize our self-evident prejudice and ignorance."

As I've said before, I'd love to quiz mascot supporters on how well they know Native history and culture. I'm guessing they'd fail utterly. I wouldn't be surprised if they did worse than people who don't worship an Indian mascot. I.e., people who don't claim that stereotypes "educate" them. Who admit they know nothing about Indians.

There are far worse stereotypes out there? First, most Illiniwek supported deny that the Chief is stereotypical. Thanks for admitting what they're afraid to say. Second, is "two wrongs make a right" really the best you can do? Maybe we should steal some Indian land because there were far worse land thefts in the past.

Chief Illiniwek has nothing whatsoever to do with the real Native culture in Illinois. Once he's gone, Illinois will continue to have many Indian communities, monuments, and place names. This phony dancing fool is only the tiny tip of the iceberg, not the whole iceberg.

You may not realize it, but your claim contradicts the "Next Dance" agenda. You say if we get rid of Chief Illiniwek, there won't be any Indian culture left. But the "Next Dance" organizers say the Chief is a bridge to genuine Indian culture such as the Grand Village of Kickapoo State Park.

So which is it? Is the Chief the very last remnant of Indians in Illinois? Or will Indians continue to exist just fine in Illinois without the Chief? Talk to the "Next Dance" people and get your stories straight, okay?


Rob's second reply

Motsinger claims "little or nothing" is left of Indians in Illinois. That's his justification for "educating" people with a stereotypical chief who falsely represents a Plains culture in another state. Good thinking, Junior...I can see why you're majoring in engineering and not Native studies, history, or logic.

The Illini Indians' descendants, the state's Native communities, and the university's Native students all oppose the dancing clown. Motsinger denies that these Indians exist. Wow, Chief Illiniwek is really educating people about today's Indians...not.

Here's some of the Indian culture that Motsinger thinks doesn't exist anymore in Illinois:

Opening eyes to Native American culture, heritage at Elgin museum

By Larissa ChinwahEducating visitors about Native Americans is important because portrayals of American Indians are often inaccurate, said Sal Redhawk Camacho, a Potawatomi re-enactor from Elgin who has the blessing of the elders of the Potawotami Nation.

"I want to teach kids that their ideas of what an Indian is are not what they see on TV," said Camacho, who erected a wigwam and roasted a chicken in front of the museum. "I am here to teach the truth."

In addition to the exhibit, the day also included a blessing of the bison that live in the Lords Park enclosure. More than 50 people attended this year's event, which was conducted by Joseph Standing Bear Schranz, an elder of the White Earth Ojibwe and president and founder of Midwest SOARRING (Saving Our Ancestors Resources and Remains indigenous Networking Group), based in Lyons.
Finally, some recent postings on Chief Illiniwek:

Anti-Illiniwek sign damaged
Illini mascot:  chicken or clown?
Mascots perceived as real Indians
Chiefs were humble and generous
Signs recall Illinois Indians

Plus this gem of a putdown:

Rob vs. mascot apologist

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

Below:  "Logan Ponce, portraying Chief Illiniwek, faces the crowd after performing during the Three In One at 'The Next Dance' at Assembly Hall on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008." (Wesley Fane/The Daily Illini)

1 comment:

Thomas Garza said...

Hi Rob,

I was one of the participants in the rally outside of the 'Next Dance', and so I think I can respond to some of your comments about that situation.

As usual things are a bit more complex than they appear on the surface.

To begin with, I met Mr Barnhill, spoke to him for some time and shook his hand . . . not in the sense of counting coup as you might suppose, but in a sincere effort to welcome him, in a good way, to the community.

Mr Barnhill is from Redbud and is Lakota, so yes he is a real 'Indian' and no, as far as I know he did not stand up and say that 'the chief' is a fraud. His reason for being there was valid if -- in my opinion -- rather misguided. To put it simply, his purpose was to educate in the midst of what he saw as simply two warring parties fighting with but not listening to one another.

I, for one, respect his desire to do this and only argue with him in the sense that I question the fact that he didn't come here before agreeing to appear at this event and talk with the community in order to find out if in fact anyone else had ever tried to do something like that before -- which was rather disrespectful -- and also because I believe that his apolitical (his description, not mine) stance belies the fact that whether or not he wants to think of his participation as 'taking sides', others undoubtedly did and do.

There is also the problem of course that he, a Lakota, in taking it upon himself to educate people about and perpetuate the memory of the Kickapoo in this particular context is simply feeding the popular misconception that any Native equals every Native because all 'Indians' are essentially the same.

As you point out in your comments about 'ignorant Illini fans' this lack of ability to see the incredibly diverse Native peoples of this continent as anything but aspects of a single, simplistic meta-identity is a huge part of what perpetuates their ignorance, because they don't even have enough of an understanding of what and who is involved in order to form basic, coherent or consistent ideas about the subject, and therefore can't proceed to deal with the more complex aspects of what it means to stereotype someone or commodify their culture; especially given our history of genocide and ongoing colonialism.