In all instances of this issue, there are two disturbing trends. The opposition wishes to eliminate, rather than try to compromise, fix, or otherwise workshop any concept which will allow the preservation of Native imagery. Simply put, it is an unyielding push to destroy and keep away forever.
Furthermore, the opposition must impart their will through by force through bans and new resolutions. Not only is this aggressive attitude not acceptable to diverse thought, but it also ignores the will of community members and majority opinion. All attempts that have been made to eliminate Native imagery have been pushed through means contrary to democracy.
Point: We should work towards reason, discussion, and compromise rather than elimination and bans.
Counter-Point: Native imagery is offensive and therefore deserves to be banned.
Point: Native imagery is not wholly offensive in every iteration. If certain aspects of Native culture and history are found to be offensive to some, then we should address those specific facets and continue to represent culture and tradition, especially when it has been established and respected.
Counter-Point: Discussions can present a hostile environment for students, the decision to ban has been made an cannot be reversed.
Point: These environments are still hostile to the students who support Native imagery. This is not a sustainable environment and needs to be rectified for the safety and well-being of ALL students.
Example: Chief Illiniwek & the War Chant were simply retired at the University of Illinois. No efforts were made by the University to respect the Native history of the state in a more authentic or educational way.
Example: The University of North Dakota cut ties with Native symbolism and nomenclature, despite direct support from local tribes. No effort was made to compromise between critics and supporters.
Native Americans are the only group that have been singled out by the NCAA’s ruling. Removing Native American imagery from athletics other collegiate representations while not targeting any other demographic singles out Native people and further limits the modern expression of Native culture. Additionally, the NCAA ruling presents many loopholes that unfairly single out Native Americans, such as requiring federal recognition and requiring tribal votes. Federal recognition is a status only applied to Native peoples…the NCAA’s emphasis on this requirement highlights extreme bias and discrimination against Native people as a whole.
Point: In an attempt to fight perceived discrimination, the NCAA has actually done more damage by setting a precedent of treating Native issues differently than any other demographic.
Counter-Point: The NCAA’s ruling was supported by many tribal governments and Native advocacy groups. How could it offend Native people if Natives themselves support it?
Point: Just as the federal or state government does not represent the wishes of all or even the majority of US Citizens, so too do tribal governments and select organizations fail to represent the opinions of Natives as a whole.
Counter-Point: Native peoples are the only ones that are portrayed as mascots. The Universities are the ones discriminating, not the NCAA.
Point: Untrue. Many schools, from the Cowboys to the Boilermakers portray human mascots. Furthermore, many other schools portray people of a specific culture or heritage, such as the Fighting Irish, Vikings, Spartans, and more. The fact that Native Americans are isolated by the NCAA among these many examples is unfair and discriminatory.
EX: Though there were many tribes that made up the Illiniwek confederation which the University of Illinois represents, only the Peoria of Oklahoma were chosen to vote on the NCAA issue due to their governmental status.
EX: Though undeniably Native, schools like San Diego State and Hawaii are able to keep their imagery due to the lack of federal recognition status of those peoples.
True diversity and inclusiveness means supporting diverse ideas. Currently, Native students are shunned from Cultural Programs and Support Structures and discriminated against by faculty for no other reason than their views on Native imagery. Native American students have sharply declined at both Illinois and North Dakota since the schools’ decision to retire their Native imagery. This trend is clearly indicative of the lack of incentive of the hostile environment for Native students who disagree with forced opinions of the administration and faculty, or those who feel unprepared to engage intelligently due to a lack of unbiased information presented by the University itself.
Point: Native Enrollment has decreased at both schools since the retirement of their Native symbolism.
Counter-Point: There is no definitive link to say that the decline in Native students is due to this retirement.
Point: Though the enrollment of Native students has dropped, the number of general students has actually increased since 2005. UND’s general student body has grown 10% and UIUC 15%.
Counter-Point: Perhaps the number of Native students is simply at a constant decline. There is nothing significant about the NCAA decision in 2005.
Point: UND Native Student population increased 18% in the decade prior to 2005. UIUC Native enrollment increased 36%. The 2000s represent a clear turning point in the rise and fall of the enrollment of Native students, and the NCAA decision shows a clear shift in national attitudes and campus environment.
Example: Since the retirement of Chief Illiniwek, enrollment of Native students at UIUC has dropped by 79%. Native students who support the Chief at the University report that they feel unwelcome in the American Indian Studies program, as well as at events at the Native American Cultural House.
Example: Since the retirement of the Fighting Sioux tradition, enrollment of Native students has dropped by 46%. Sioux elders in North Dakota report that Native students are more vocal in support of the ideals of their professors than they are regarding the views of their local tribes.
Just as many Native tribes united together to preserve their way of life against new changes and challenges, so too will we put aside our differences to come together for a greater cause. We may all have differing reasons on how and why Native culture should be preserved, but if we do not set aside our differences to stand together now, the opposition will gain strength in their narrow-minded lust for destruction. Once something has been taken away, it is difficult to get back. If we support Native imagery in ANY form, we must work together to preserve what exists. Once our symbolism has been protected, we can then approach how to best adapt it for a modern audience.
Point: Anyone who wishes to see Native names and images preserved for future generations needs to get involved by joining HTCS.
Counter-Point: I support some form of Native Imagery, but there are parts of traditions like Chief Illiniwek that I don’t like. Why should I support the Honor the Chief Society?
Point: The Honor the Chief Society recognizes the Chief as an evolving tradition, but that tradition can only be allowed to evolve if we protect it. Right now, the war is to preserve the Chief, if we accomplish that mission, we can work together on necessary changes.
Counter-Point: Why not skip to the end game? If you’re willing to change the Chief, why not do it now?
Point: Part of working together means including the community. The Chief is a symbol that represents Illinois, and so suggestions and changes need to occur with open doors where all can weigh in. That can’t happen until we lift the stigma that the University has cast over Native imagery.
Example: I'm a Cleveland Fan who loved Chief Wahoo. I would much rather see Chief Wahoo remodeled to look like Chief Illiniwek than to have him replaced with the "Block C".
Example: I've never felt comfortable with the Chief as it was, but wish Illinois could incorporate a feather, or authentic drum beat into their athletic traditions.