Q: How can you support a racist mascot?
A: I don’t support racist mascots; the Chief is not a racist mascot. The Chief is a symbol and that symbol stands to represent the qualities of unity, honor, and tradition that past tribes and soldiers from Illinois upheld when calling themselves “Illini”.
Q: I’m offended by the Chief . . . shouldn’t that be enough to ban it?
A: Just as you have the freedom to speak out that you are offended, so too should we be allowed the freedom to express our support. Like fixing a car rather than buying a new one, those in support of the Chief tradition strive to make it as respectful as possible rather than abandoning it entirely.
Q: If the Chief tradition is inclusive to all students, why has every Chief portrayer been a white frat boy?
A: That is not the case. Past portrayers and assistants include men and women and draw from those both within and outside of the Greek system. Portrayers have claimed multiple ethnicities from Native to Hispanic.
Q: Does the Chief regalia represent traditional Illini clothing?
A: No. Regalia is modeled after more of a Plains tribe style than what would have been seen in Illinois. The recognizable style was adopted to catch the attention of the public and was continued when Lakota Chief Frank Fool’s Crow presented a new regalia to the University. He saw this as a way to honor the positive way in which the Chief was portrayed. The current regalia is modeled after that regalia, which has been returned to South Dakota.
Q: Is the Chief’s dance authentic?
A: No. Although the dance may have been based upon traditional moves at its inception, each of the 37 subsequent Chief portrayers have made minor alterations to make the dance their own. Because of this, the dance now is almost totally different from when it began in 1926.
Q: How can you defend the Chief when both the dance and attire lack authenticity?
A: The difference is largely in the intent. The Chief’s dance is not meant to represent a specific dance performed in a cultural ceremony. Even modern Native gatherings often feature competitive dancing, featuring dances that have been modified for entertainment purposes and colorful clothing that would not have been traditionally available. These dances serve to catch the attention of the general public, as well as a younger generation of Native children so that they become interested in the culture that these modern performances were based on. These pow-wow dances and the Chief dance alike serve as ways to preserve culture, share it with a new audience, and stimulate interest for further study.
Q: Research done at Illinois shows that the Chief symbol elicits a feeling of aggression and conflict. How can this be true if the Chief is not offensive?
A: This feeling comes from the fact that students are aware of and have experienced the controversy surrounding the symbol and has nothing to do with the symbol itself. In fact, the National Congress of American Indians uses a similar logo.
Q: Stereotyping and offensive imagery are more prevalent than they have ever been on campus. Is the Chief to blame?
A: Quite the opposite, actually. Supporters of the Chief tradition strive to educate students and community members. However, without the support of the University, this role is more difficult to carry out. If anything, the retirement of the Chief allows others more of an opportunity to create their own representations which may perpetuate these issues.
Q: Why keep pushing to have the Chief returned to the University?
A: If the Chief returned, we can cooperate with the University to make sure the Chief continues in the most respectful way possible with added guidance from the University and/or Peoria tribe leaders. Additionally, the reinstatement of the Chief would undoubtedly revive dwindling athletic attendance, as well as boost alumni donations, fostering a better future for Illinois athletics and academics alike.
Q: Why can’t you just get over it and choose a new mascot?
A: We have always had a symbol, not a mascot, and that distinction carries with it a certain honor that has always reflected the dignity of Illinois. No other symbol better mirrors the quality of unity that we share with Illini past and present than the Chief, and nothing else could fill the void left by over 80 years of tradition.
Q: Am I helping by accusing others of being "racist"?
A: No, in fact, one might consider baseless accusations and name-calling to be hostile and abusive.
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