Dump the U of I trustees and bring back Chief Illiniwek

You know, if we can dump the University of Illinois Board of Trustees
for clouting


well-connected applicants into the school, maybe we can
get back our beloved Chief Illiniwek.

Seriously. Most of the current trustees are the same people who two
years ago caved in to political correctness and the NCAA by banning the
popular chief. Now two of the trustees have resigned over a scandal
involving admissions cheating.

Put the two together and maybe, by some slim chance, we could wind
up with a new board that would tell the buttinskis at the NCAA to mind
their own business and bring back the chief.
Yeah, I know reopening
this touchy issue is risky; it took a dozen years for the university to
be browbeaten into abandoning the 80-year-old symbol, and we’re
supposed to accept the decision forever and ever. But I believe that if
you took a poll, you’d find a lot of people in Illinois, especially
those who attended the university at the Urbana-Champaign campus, still
are resentful of the execution of Illiniwek and want him resurrected.

But is it worth stirring up all the old animosities? Yes, it is; as
they say, it’s a matter of principle. And what principle would that be?
I could name several. Autonomy and the right of public institutions to
be free of unreasonable pressure to conform to the wishes of a tiny
minority of overly sensitive opportunists who hunt down every
infraction of their “thou-shalt-not-offend” code of conduct. Illiniwek
has a meaning that is far from disrespectful. Indians in the
confederation of tribes in this region used the word to describe
themselves as “we are the complete man” — the strong, intellectual and
spiritual man. Also throw in brave, truthful and dignified. When the
chief sprang onto the field, those were the meanings that were taken;
he wasn’t a cartoon or an object of ridicule.

Others who know us better than we know ourselves said support of the
chief was racially motivated, reflecting a covert attempt to reduce
Native Americans to ridiculous caricatures because, I suppose, we had
nothing else better to do. We’re so dull-witted and racist that we
don’t even realize that we are dull-witted and racist. So, the NCAA had
to swoop in and threaten the school’s intercollegiate athletic program
if we didn’t dump the chief.

The sentiment against the chief was typified then by a letter to the
editor that asked: If a Tribune columnist’s (not me) relatives were
“robbed, tortured and killed, and then the descendants of the
perpetrators of the crimes decided to dress up like those victimized
relatives in order to ‘honor’ them at sporting events, would [the
columnist] still shrug in incomprehension?”

Spare me. Millions of my Irish antecedents were robbed, tortured and
killed by the English, and it would not offend me to have someone dress
up as one of the “victims” in tribute to their courage, honesty,
intelligence and other virtues. Even that idiotic “Fighting Irish”
mascot at Notre Dame doesn’t bother me, and certainly not to the extent
that I’d want to cashier it.

The U. of I. Board of Trustees tried to find a “consensus” on the chief
that would satisfy all, but when no consensus could be reached because
the vast majority of people favored retaining the chief, the board’s
hand was forced. Either stand up to the NCAA by challenging its
outrageous demands in court or give in.

The board gave in. Except for trustee David Dorris, whose plea at a
2007 board meeting to legally challenge the NCAA’s authority to impose
its penalties was swamped under a tsunami of cowardice. The minutes of
the meeting show only a voice vote was taken (not a recorded vote for
such a controversial issue?); newspaper accounts said Dorris’ dissent
was the only vote against the chief’s death penalty. So, Dorris can
stay. The rest of them have to go, those who clouted pals of
politicians and other influence peddlers into the school, and those who
betrayed decades of the school’s traditions by dumping the chief.

The prospects of this happening, of course, are virtually nil because
uberliberal Gov. Pat Quinn, who would name the replacements, would
probably never pick anyone who would bring back the chief. Years ago
the board of trustees was elected, which reformers said made trustees
nothing more than political pawns and connivers. So, now that the board
is appointed, it is loaded with political pawns and connivers, as well
as politically correct milksops. And so it goes in the state of

This column also appeared in the Chicago Tribune


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  • Exactly how I feel. Bring back Chief Illiniwek. Let's start a poll in favor of the Chief!!!

  • you still have a way with words, mr. b.

    > ... the right of public institutions to be free of unreasonable pressure to conform to the wishes of a tiny minority of overly sensitive opportunists who hunt down every infraction of their "thou-shalt-not-offend" code of conduct.

  • Dennis, you will NEVER understand the amount of pride our native Americans have for their culture. First, the costume and headress is wrong for area tribes...I understand the war bonnet is from Oklahoma area native tribes. More ridiculous is the jumping war dance. Local tribes had none to my knowledge - they were peaceful. This is very offensive to a people that have pride and honor as the staples to their existance. Not to be used as a symbol for a sports team. In other words, this symbol is a disgrace to an honorable group of people. On the flip side, it would probably just as insulting to you by having the Notre Dame "fighting Irish" use a mascot of a drunken, lazy, smelly bum that fights with anyone crossing his path. I would say that image is not indicitave of all Irish decendents but in the minds of all ignorant people placing their heritage above yours. Be more sensitive and intelligent to other cultures - that would be admirable. Walk in their shoes.

  • If the native Americans have so much pride, then why don't they go after 1)the Atlanta Braves with Chief Nockahoma, 2) the Chicago Blackhawks, 3) the Florida State Seminoles? Why doesn't PETA go after the Bears, the Cubs and the Tigers and every other team with an animal "mascot"?

    Why don't those who are offended by absolutely everything just take a deep breath and relax? What took those morons so long to finally object?

    No matter what is done, someone will be offended. This has always been the case, but now publicity is so much easier to obtain, as the TV stations and newspapers are desperate for dudiences.

  • In reply to BobM:

    I made a typo with "dudiences", but maybe it was actually a Freudian slip.

  • In reply to BobM:

    As a senior at U of I, I dislike the chief greatly. He was a minstrel show. A white man pretending to be Native American and mocking Native Americans. Real dignified, so honorable. He's dead okay Dennis? The chief will continue to live on only in your head where apparently racism is allright with you. And no Dennis I'm not overly sensitive not one bit. When you've realized you have white privilege..get back to me.

  • In reply to BobM:

    I wonder how much the Native Americans PACs or other "tribes" contributed to "Blago" and his appointees. Might be interesting for the Tribune to investigate.

  • In reply to BobM:

    Dennis, I think you have the right idea. The way Chief Illinwek has been portrayed can in no way be as offensive as how someone like Emil Jones has portrayed being a caring considerate human being. I live near the U of I. Campus in Urbana. What these politically correct droids that oppose the Chief do not realize is. That roughly 90% of the students at the Urbana-Champaign campus wear shirts, coats, etc. that have the Chiefs pic or the word "CHIEF" on them. AWAY from campus you see "NUCK THE FCAA" signs. ONE THING YOU DO NOT SEE...the mighty, politically correct, "wanna-be injuns" doing anything to help their own people now that this big bad symbol has been removed. LETS PUT THE CHIEF ISSUE ON THE BALLOT AND LET THE PEOPLE OF ILLINOIS DECIDE IF THEY WANT THEIR TAXES TO SUPPORT THE U. of I. WITH, OR WITHOUT THE CHIEF! Never happen, will it? The 2% who oppose the Chief will have their way.

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