Thursday, October 24, 2013

How some people choose to expend energy; on warpath for pseudo-Chief

I’m not a University of Illinois alumnus, so I always have trouble identifying with the people who want to view it as a holy crusade, of sorts, to fight for the image of Chief Illiniwek.

The old stomping grounds of generations of pseudo-Chiefs
My alma mater’s mascot/honored symbol/whatever label you try to tag it with, was a student in a Titan costume – and a cheap one at that. It wasn’t something somebody would get upset over.

YET TO THIS day, there are people who want to view it as a travesty that the university did away with the image of a white student doing what was supposed to be a sacred native dance while wearing a tribal costume that was supposed to be distinctly authentic to the tribes native to what is now Illinois.

Of course, the matter that was bringing out all this imagery? The notion that the Fighting Illini sports teams might get their butts kicked a little less viciously than they usually do.

In all, not exactly something that the real natives would have ever used such sacred imagery for. Which is the point that the non-Indian tribal people always miss when they try to defend such things as Chief Wahoo in Cleveland or the Washington Redskins football team!

The distortion of native images is so laughable. It is more ridiculous than the distortion that occurred when the hippy-dippy types of the 1960s got themselves all into the images and cultures of India.

BUT IN A comical way that no real Indian person would ever do. Just like no real person whose ethnic origins trace back to the indigenous tribes of this nation (a fake Indian, because of the fact that Christopher Columbus was not so much a discoverer of nations, but was lost!) would ever think there was anything real about Illiniwek.

Which is what makes their fight seem so trivial.

Ever since Illiniwek (I actually once met a former Illiniwek back in the days when I worked at the state Capitol in Springfield – he’s now a corporate executive for railroad interests) disappeared in 2007, there has been a group calling itself the Honor the Chief Society.

Chief as long-gone as this melted ice sculpture
They are a batch of disgruntled student types who want to think the hippy-dippy types have taken over the world from decent, respectable types like themselves! Which means they think the rest of the world should shut up and do what they tell them to do.

THEY WENT SO far as to try to register the Chief Illiniwek logo for themselves, claiming the university had abandoned it.

Which has resulted in lawsuits, legal action and attorneys getting richer and richer – because the university didn’t want anyone doing something with the logo that would have reflected negatively on the Urbana-based college.

The two sides came to an agreement this week that really maintains the status quo. They can’t create an Indian mascot and call it the New Chief Illiniwek. They can’t make any merchandise of their own with the Illiniwek logo.

They can make their own merchandise with the phrase “Honor the Chief.” Although their website and promotional materials will be required to contain the phrase, “The Honor the Chief Society is not sponsored, licensed, approved or endorsed by the University of Illinois.”

IN SHORT, THE great Illiniwek legal battle resulted in the group being treated like a pack of cigarettes – they have to have a warning label of sorts to let you know that something bad exists here.

And in return for accepting a warning label, the group will get to sell t-shirts and perhaps a coffee mug or two. Is this really a fight about merchandising?

All of which I suspect will only be purchased by people more interested in making conservative ideological statements. While the student body will shrug off the issue as a whole lot of nonsense about nothing.

Because the rest of us who attended a college and that type of experience remember the parties, the pressure of classes, the intellectual rewards and even some of the ballgames – not the student who wore a funny costume because he wasn’t good enough to actually play on one of the athletic teams.


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