The Kingfisher

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Chevy Chase, Maryland
Well I think the Native American historical experience is slightly different than that of a farmer or pipefitter...

In the realm of Native American mascots, Chief Illiniwek was on the more dignified end of the spectrum, but I also don't think there is much dignity to be found when you zoom out. Driving a group of people from their homeland, but making up for it by having a suburban kid do a super respectful halftime dance, feels icky (technical term) to me. No amount of authenticity or respect makes this equation balance out.

Imagine we collectively decided that all farmland needed to be used for bowling alleys, Walmarts, and parking lots, and forced all farmers out of their homes to work on vertical hydroponic farms in a corner of northeast Nevada. But to remember the farmers and the land they used to have, we had a student dress up in overalls to do toe touches on the 50-yard line during our football and basketball games. I don't care how historically accurate his overalls are, there would be some pissed off farmers. Oh, we also give the farmers smallpox and kill all of their cows.
I'm hard-pressed to think of a single place, from Champaign to the interior of the Amazon, in which the current inhabitants of the dominant culture did not drive out prior inhabitants. Indigenous Americans were not a homogeneous group. A continuum of aggression existed among various tribes, as it does among all human groups. Some were particularly vicious, and also quite successful in marginalizing and enslaving others. Such is the way of human history until approximately a moment ago in the historical time scale. Expunging their memory from as many institutions as possible, however, seems undesirable.

I agree with you completely that the physical incarnation of the Chief could go with no loss, and I've never felt or argued otherwise. It felt off to me as well when I became a student at the university. It's the symbol, however, that remains important. That was a loss. I'd hate to see the moniker "Fighting Illini" go as well.
 
       
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Excerpt from "The Chief Illiniwek Dialogue: Intent and Tradition vs. Reaction and History, circa 2000"

The Position of the Peoria Tribe

In 1995, the Peoria Tribe, the direct descendants of the remnants of the Illini Tribe,
approved the use of the Chief by the University. At that time, during a WICD (the
Champaign affiliate of NBC) broadcast, Chief Giles of the Peoria tribe stated: "To say
that we are anything but proud to have these portrayals would be completely wrong.
We're proud that the University of Illinois is the major institution in the state, a seat of
learning, and they are drawing on that background of our having been there. And what
more honor could they pay us. "As part of that same broadcast Ron Froman, an officer
in the Peoria Tribe was quoted on the Chief Illiniwek Home Page as saying that the
protestors do not speak for all Native Americans and certainly not for the Peoria
Tribe. The Home Page continued that the opinions of the Peoria tribe members should
bear more weight because they were the only descendants of the Illini. However, on
April 20, 2000, after the Dialogue Intake Session of April 14, 2000, the Peoria Tribe
passed a resolution by a vote of 3 to 2 requesting that the University cease the use of
Chief Illiniwek.
 
       
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Chevy Chase, Maryland
I mean, I see people making tortured attempts at comparisons to Sparty and Herbie Husker and saying things "They will take my Chief logo when they scrape it off my cold, dead chest."



I think the ultimate "kidding yourselves" move was - and continues to be - the fiction of "No no, see...we say it's a symbol - that means it's materially different from a mascot!" I'm going on like 20 years now of waiting for an explanation of this difference that doesn't warrant eye rolling.

Did the Chief yuk it up for photos at football games? No. But that's a pretty narrow slice of what that term means - we sure slapped the Chief on everything we could, from our uniforms to underwear to shot glasses. It's telling that so many people contorted themselves to find a way to say "No, the Chief is not a mascot" because that reveals a tacit understanding that if he was, it would be in poor taste.

You're right that the only difference between him and Chief Osceola is that one has the support of a tribe, and one doesn't. That's a really big difference! So much so that a) it's not the hypocrisy "gotcha" you think it is and b) it's ridiculous for you to claim one is a mascot and one isn't.
Matt... I think you took me a bit too literally there, and also seem to lack a certain sense of irony, if not humor.

As for the rest, the discussion, such as it is, has reached diminishing returns. You're interested in disparaging me because I disagree with you. And you've succeeded. I can't wait for the next time I engage you. Well done. It's Miller Time.
 
       
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If it's offensive to an entire culture it's representing, but not offensive to me, we should do nothing about it. Got it.


In 1995, the Peoria Tribe, the direct descendants of the remnants of the Illini Tribe,
approved the use of the Chief by the University. At that time, during a WICD (the
Champaign affiliate of NBC) broadcast, Chief Giles of the Peoria tribe stated: "To say
that we are anything but proud to have these portrayals would be completely wrong.
We're proud that the University of Illinois is the major institution in the state, a seat of
learning, and they are drawing on that background of our having been there. And what
more honor could they pay us. "As part of that same broadcast Ron Froman, an officer
in the Peoria Tribe was quoted on the Chief Illiniwek Home Page as saying that the
protestors do not speak for all Native Americans and certainly not for the Peoria
Tribe.
 
       
I think adopting some sort of symbol insulates "Fighting Illini" for the future and helps to put the issue to bed.

Are you against getting rid of the Fighting Illini name, as in, if the student government passes a resolution condemning the usage of that name and calling for the university to adopt a new name for athletic teams would you be against that?
 
       
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North Bethesda, Maryland
The primary vocal push against the Chief was primarily internal to the university, from anti-Chief faculty and student groups with little or no affiliation to Native Americans. I'd have had a bit more sympathy to the movement when I was a student had it originated from Native American desires/concerns.
What if a member of the Sioux or Peoria tribe was the one performing the ceremonial dance at halftime? Would that have been acceptable to Kaufmann and others?

That’s quite a lot to unpack. If the push was originally from that group, it no longer is. There are many minorities who didn’t feel empowered to speak, or just had the defeated sense of “there’s nothing we can do.” Native Americans are simply speaking up, and also a younger generation, who were not around when these symbols and mascots were created, are saying no...that’s not my heritage.

If you still think it‘s just disgruntled University of Illinois elites, then you may want to check out the documentary “In Whose Honor?”

As for an actual Native American dancing at halftime...has there ever been one? Or just someone pretending? Plenty of Places have had mascots playing dress-up, just ask folks in Pekin, Illinois...they finally gave up being the ”Chinks” in 1981. No more Bobby and Sue dressed up as Chink and Chinkette. (Yes, they did that)
 
       
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The Transfer Portal
Are you against getting rid of the Fighting Illini name, as in, if the student government passes a resolution condemning the usage of that name and calling for the university to adopt a new name for athletic teams would you be against that?

Yes. My understanding of the roots of "Illini" is that it's more of a traditional demonym developed by the students to refer to themselves. You can daisy-chain Native American and French interpretations of it together, just as you can with the name of the state itself, but there was never a tribe that called themselves "Illini." By removing the Native American imagery (and possibly, by substituting something else), my hope would be it could return to that original status of something akin to "Sooner" or "Hoosier."
 
       
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BU:1 Trash cans:0
Chicago
The discussions surrounding the Chief strike me as having similarities to the discussions surrounding the Confederate flag.

Yes, the flag is cultural. Yes, people have fond memories attached to it. Yes, it is a symbol that has historical significance for a certain group of people. But it is also painful and offensive to others. And, for some, it is a symbol of something far less positive.

There may have been widespread acceptance (or tolerance) of the flag and the Chief in the past, but popular opinion has shifted. I think it highly unlikely that there will be a shift back anytime soon. I suppose we can all decide for ourselves if we want to try to hold on to what was or if we are willing to turn our collective attention and energies to what is and what will be.

That said, I appreciate that this situation may evoke a deep sense of loss. For many, a period of mourning is an appropriate response.
 
       
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Yes. My understanding of the roots of "Illini" is that it's more of a traditional demonym developed by the students to refer to themselves. You can daisy-chain Native American and French interpretations of it together, just as you can with the name of the state itself, but there was never a tribe that called themselves "Illini." By removing the Native American imagery (and possibly, by substituting something else), my hope would be it could return to that original status of something akin to "Sooner" or "Hoosier."

OK, thanks for clarifying. It just seems like an awkward middle ground.

I have no doubt they will come for the name also. With all due respect, I think it's naive to believe otherwise.
 
       
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People are really going to bring Florida State into the argument?

Any time your defense for resisting social change starts with, "But down in Florida..."; it's pretty safe to assume you will end up on the wrong side of history.
 
       
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I still don't get my we can't have a stoic, beautiful, non-caricature logo of what our state was named after. But since we can't if this bird is elected in, and is on the sidelines at games, I will boo the feathered freak to Kingdom Come.
 
       
I was pro-Chief. I wouldn’t be sad if he came back. But, it’s been 13 years. He’s not coming back. Our new freshmen were 5 years old when the Chief was eliminated. They have no fond memories of him and no connection to that tradition.

I thought the objections to the Chief were silly. And now, I think the people holding desperately onto the Chief are being silly. This is supposed to be a fun rallying figure for our school and state, not a means of scoring political points. It’s time to move on.

There are worse mascots than the kingfisher. It’s blue and orange and native to the State. If the students are happy with it, I’m happy with it.
 
       
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I’ll just wait to be flamed here: I loved the Chief, grew up with, and he was the mascot during my years at UI. However, I am not a Native American. My wife and her family are voting, card-carrying citizens of the Cherokee Nation, and my brother-in-law is the President of the Pawnee...I will take my cue from them. It’s not “politically“ correct, it’s just ”correct” to not continue the use of a symbol that bothers those the symbol (mis)represents. Much like the Redskins, I do not believe it was meant to denigrate or ridicule, but it needed to go.
Flame on!

So, you know some Native Americans who are bothered by the Chief. They're entitled to their opinions, of course, but theirs aren't the only voices that are relevant. There are also Native Americans who support the Chief. Those that you mention are not Illini. In fact, the Pawnee were often at war with the Illini. You ask in another post about Natives who portrayed the Chief. There have been at least two. Ivan Dozier is a card-carrying citizen (as you put it) of the Cherokee Nation and Idelle Stith was an Osage Indian princess. As a Christian I might object to the Blue Devils, Blue Demons, Red Devils, Demon Deacons, etc., but those teams should have the right to choose their own symbols. My objection shouldn't be the deciding factor. The opinions of those who support the Chief are not illegitimate, nor are they racist.
 
       
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Chicago, IL
Yes. My understanding of the roots of "Illini" is that it's more of a traditional demonym developed by the students to refer to themselves. You can daisy-chain Native American and French interpretations of it together, just as you can with the name of the state itself, but there was never a tribe that called themselves "Illini." By removing the Native American imagery (and possibly, by substituting something else), my hope would be it could return to that original status of something akin to "Sooner" or "Hoosier."

This may be the only time I want to be like Indiana. Give me the Fighting Illini nickname and no mascot. We're fine without it.
 
       
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Winged Warrior
OH MY GOD THE KINGFISHERS ARE COMING!!!

 
       
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People are really going to bring Florida State into the argument?

Any time your defense for resisting social change starts with, "But down in Florida..."; it's pretty safe to assume you will end up on the wrong side of history.
I'll bring them in all day. The NCAA made selected schools get rid of their "hostile and offensive" imagery, but didn't force their will on FSU because they had support (read: gives lots of money) of the Seminole tribe. The NCAA could have taken a stand and said there will be no Native American imagery AT ALL, but they didn't. Because FSU has money and is a big name program, they got by with it. In the mean time, I've NEVER heard about any protests or complaints about their use of the name and mascot. In the meantime, the Cleveland Indians are getting away from most of the imagery and retired Chief Wahoo. The Washington Redskins are now the Washington Football Team. It's hypocritical, and I think indicative of our administration not having the guts to stand up to the NCAA. I'm not saying that FSU having Osceola is right or wrong, just hypocritical.
 
       
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I was pro-Chief. I wouldn’t be sad if he came back. But, it’s been 13 years. He’s not coming back. Our new freshmen were 5 years old when the Chief was eliminated. They have no fond memories of him and no connection to that tradition.

I thought the objections to the Chief were silly. And now, I think the people holding desperately onto the Chief are being silly. This is supposed to be a fun rallying figure for our school and state, not a means of scoring political points. It’s time to move on.

There are worse mascots than the kingfisher. It’s blue and orange and native to the State. If the students are happy with it, I’m happy with it.

This is the problem though. What happens when in four years another group of students decide they hate the kingfisher, and want our mascot to be a firefighter, or a housecat, or whatever? There's nothing to stop them from getting that passed through the senate and approved by the administration. In the meantime, the alumni have zero say in the matter. I paid my money to the university for my education, the same as the current students. Why didn't I get to vote on the kingfisher, along with all of the other alumni? The administration doesn't care about history or tradition, which is why we're in this mess. If they really cared, they would have gotten a substantial group of alumni of varying backgrounds together and weighed their input before allowing the vote for the kingfisher to go through.
 
       
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North Bethesda, Maryland
So, you know some Native Americans who are bothered by the Chief. They're entitled to their opinions, of course, but theirs aren't the only voices that are relevant. There are also Native Americans who support the Chief. Those that you mention are not Illini. In fact, the Pawnee were often at war with the Illini. You ask in another post about Natives who portrayed the Chief. There have been at least two. Ivan Dozier is a card-carrying citizen (as you put it) of the Cherokee Nation and Idelle Stith was an Osage Indian princess. As a Christian I might object to the Blue Devils, Blue Demons, Red Devils, Demon Deacons, etc., but those teams should have the right to choose their own symbols. My objection shouldn't be the deciding factor. The opinions of those who support the Chief are not illegitimate, nor are they racist.
Are you suggesting that the Pawnee having been at war with the Illini at one point in history means they are okay with the chief and still angry with the tribe? I better give up tea.
Happy to hear there have been at least two who were Native American...but in the long run it still doesn't make it okay.
If you read my previous post, you would see I said I did not think even Redskins fans, a term that is clearly a negative racial descriptor, mean to denigrate Native Americans...I live here, they are great fans.
If Native Americans, even if it doesn't rise to the level of an overwhelming majority, do not like Native American mascots they feel do not fairly represent them, then it shouldn't be done, and it shouldn't be a decision left to people who are not Native American.
The teams you name are not demeaning a race of people. You can not like them, but others may not share your belief system...you can't choose to not believe someone is Native American.
So yes, your objection, as much as I respect it, should not be a deciding factor, but a race of people has the right to object and demand change.
And yes, I know "some," which is an indistinct number that could mean quite a few, which it does in this case. But let's use your parsing of terms and say I know some...I just don't have to personally know all of them to hear what they're saying.
I will acknowledge that they are not Illini, I was talking about an opinion of mascots in general. If the Illini tribe endorsed it, as the Seminoles do, there would not be an issue.
 
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Are you suggesting that the Pawnee having been at war with the Illini at one point in history means they are okay with the chief and still angry with the tribe? I better give up tea.
Happy to hear there have been at least two who were Native American...but in the long run it still doesn't make it okay.
If you read my previous post, you would see I said I did not think even Redskins fans, a term that is clearly a negative racial descriptor, mean to denigrate Native Americans...I live here, they are great fans.
If Native Americans, even if it doesn't rise to the level of an overwhelming majority, do not like Native American mascots they feel do not fairly represent them, then it shouldn't be done, and it shouldn't be a decision left to people who are not Native American.
The teams you name are not demeaning a race of people. You can not like them, but others may not share your belief system...you can't choose to not believe someone is Native American.
So yes, your objection, as much as I respect it, should not be a deciding factor, but a race of people has the right to object and demand change.

And yes, I know "some," which is an indistinct number that could mean quite a few, which it does in this case. But let's use your parsing of terms and say I know some...I just don't have to personally know all of them to hear what they're saying.
I will acknowledge that they are not Illini, I was talking about an opinion of mascots in general. If the Illini tribe endorsed it, as the Seminoles do, there would not be an issue.

I'm going to throw my unpopular opinion about something into the mix. There's a growing group of people that think the Fighting Irish is offensive because it perpetuates untrue stereotypes about the Irish people. The mascot, a leprechaun, is a caricature of an Irish person and not an authentic representation of a leprechaun in Irish folklore. The Irish people throughout their history, even in America, have been targets of bigotry and oppression and stereotyped as drunks and subhumans. How many people need to raise their hand before we can get the Fighting Irish to change their name?
 
       
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Cary, IL
I'll bring them in all day. The NCAA made selected schools get rid of their "hostile and offensive" imagery, but didn't force their will on FSU because they had support (read: gives lots of money) of the Seminole tribe. The NCAA could have taken a stand and said there will be no Native American imagery AT ALL, but they didn't. Because FSU has money and is a big name program, they got by with it. In the mean time, I've NEVER heard about any protests or complaints about their use of the name and mascot. In the meantime, the Cleveland Indians are getting away from most of the imagery and retired Chief Wahoo. The Washington Redskins are now the Washington Football Team. It's hypocritical, and I think indicative of our administration not having the guts to stand up to the NCAA. I'm not saying that FSU having Osceola is right or wrong, just hypocritical.
As an FYI, I get this from my FSU wife. FSU had been giving money to the Seminole nation for decades. They got a share of the marketing money. So, Seminole nation had been quite happy with the arrangement for a long time, before political correctness took over. If UI had been growing the relationship for decades, I am guessing that the 3-2 vote against in 2000, would have been a 5-0 vote for.
 
       
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Can anyone on this topic imagine seeing a kingfisher mascot dancing to "ILLINOIS LOYALTY"?
 
       
Can anyone on this topic imagine seeing a kingfisher mascot dancing to "ILLINOIS LOYALTY"?

A lot of things are unimaginable until they actually happen. Just take for example pretty much everything that's happened in 2020...
 
       
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