- Chevy Chase, Maryland
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.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 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.