Sunday, March 25, 2007

Professor Debbie Reese and the UIUC "Chief Iliniwek" Controversy

Debbie Reese, a Nambe Pueblo Native American, teaches in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. One of her blogs has been devoted to providing a Native Perspective on UIUC's "Chief Illiniwek". A few days ago she wrote about the latest chapter in the long fight to have the university change their mascot.

Last month, The German, VanGoghGirl, and I all celebrated when we first heard the news that the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign announced that it would get rid of their racist mascot, Chief Illini. However, Reese points out that this announcement fell short of acknowledging that their use of a NDN cariacature was wrong. Fortunately, the university's Board of Trustees took the time to speak about this at their meeting on March 13th.

I remember years ago when I first learned about the UIUC mascot controversy from a discussion in an online group for Native Americans. Sending my first letter to UIUC regarding their racist mascot, it really seemed like nothing more than a show of support for the Native students at the school. After I found out how long other people had been fighting for this cause, I felt as if my letter-writing was simply an exercise in futility. I didn't feel like Natives had a snowball's chance in hell when it came to convincing the UIUC to get rid of its beloved, racist mascot. Yet, all that activism eventually made a difference.

Even though some diehards are suing to force the university to keep the mascot, it seems that the school is making a real effort to put this behind them and move on with a new mascot that reflects the real students at UIUC instead of some insulting cariacature of Native Americans.

1 comment:

Plain(s)feminist said...

Thanks for this update! I blogged about this too, when it happened, but I haven't been following up...