December 07, 2011

UIUC still plays "Illini" songs

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is still hanging on to the last vestiges of its Chief Illiniwek traditions:

Three-In-One may be done

By Hannah MeiselThis summer, Robert Warrior, director of American Indian Studies, asked Robert Easter, who was then the interim chancellor, to put an end to the “American Indian themed music” played by University bands.

Chief Illiniwek was officially retired in 2007, and no performance or depiction of the former symbol is permitted by the University at official events, athletic or otherwise. While many argue the history of the Three-In-One is separate from the Chief, Warrior maintains the debates go hand-in-hand.

“Unless campus and University leadership intends to bring back the former mascot, the playing of this music serves no purpose other than inciting the adherents of the retired mascot toward resentment,” he wrote. “Every time the bands play that music, you are highlighting the institution’s ugly past and pushing the campus backwards.”

But Barry Houser, director of athletic bands, disagrees based on his research into the Three-In-One. While Houser was at the University in 2007 for his master’s degree, he continued the research of former director Pete Griffin on the history of Illinois Bands.

The Three-In-One comprises three traditional pieces of University lore: “Pride of the Illini,” “March of the Illini” and “Hail to the Orange,” the Alma Mater song. “March of the Illini” was written by Harry Alford in 1926 and made its debut alongside the Chief at a football game against the University of Pennsylvania. Both “March of the Illini” and “Pride of the Illini” were officially published in 1928, and the performance of the three songs together with the drill formations became known as the Three-In-One.

Houser said he wants to make it clear that two of the three songs in the tradition were in existence before the Chief.

“It is separate when we really look at how history has been written,” he said.
Comment:  So we're talking about songs that have no Native content but remind people of Chief Illiniwek. Well, if people are singing the songs to protest the Chief's removal, or dancing like the Chief in the stands, that's one thing. The school may claim the songs aren't related to the Chief, but the fans may think they are.

But if that's not the case, I don't think I'd waste much time on them. The team name is still the Fighting Illini, right? Playing songs about the Illini seems okay to me.

At some point protests reach the point of diminishing returns. You start looking childish and petty if you remove every vestige of a mascot's history, no matter how trivial. As long as the fans aren't trying to preserve Chief Illiniwek, let them have their songs.

For more on Chief Illiniwek, see Rob = Gatekeeper for Chief Illiniwek?! and Students Learn from Chief Illiniwek?!

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