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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Point Counterpoint

    The University of Illinois recently dropped its mascot, “”Chief Illiniwek,”” after the NCAA declared that schools with “”abusive”” American Indian mascots could not host post-season championship games. Is this a long-overdue move to recognize past wrongs? Or is it an empty show of political correctness?

    Mascot ban about abuse, not political correctness

    This isn’t a debate about political correctness. The NCAA was right to decide that schools with hostile American Indian symbols must abandon their mascots to be eligible for lucrative post-season games. They were right because the inconvenience of changing a college sports team’s mascot is negligible, compared to the injustices of colonization forced on hundreds of indigenous groups in the U.S.

    The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced five major tribes east of the Mississippi River to relocate to Indian Territory, or what is now Oklahoma, so that Southerners could take over the land these tribes had lived on.

    You get where I’m going with this. The manipulation of indigenous groups in the United States, along with the general disrespect our government has shown for tribal sovereignty, has been clearly documented.

    In 1838, the U.S. government forced the Cherokee Nation to relocate to the West, under part of the Indian Removal Act. Cherokee leaders never agreed to this treaty, but federal troops forced 17,000 Cherokee to leave their land.

    Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, decided in 1831, effectively provided no protection of the basic human rights of the Cherokee people. It allowed Georgia to violently “”encourage”” Cherokee to leave. Approximately 4,000 Cherokee died along the 2,200-mile journey, which is now called the Trail of Tears.

    Not only has the NCAA decided that mascots based on Native American symbols are unacceptable, but some students agree. University of Illinois student Stephen Naranjo became a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by the Illinois Native American Bar Association with intent to retire the mascot. A Native American, Naranjo says: “”If the people you think you’re honoring say you’re not, that should be case closed.””

    The Chief Illiniwek mascot has performed dances thought to be offensive exaggerations of American Indian sacred rituals.

    A team’s success is not contingent upon its mascot. Therefore, when a mascot is offensive to the groups of indigenous people it is based upon, it’s time to change it.

    Now, I’m not a sports person. So I wondered how important a mascot is to athletes.

    Marcus Tyus, a political science junior and a sprinter for the UA men’s track and field team, said, “”Using a tribe to represent a student body isn’t really fair. Most of them aren’t members of a tribe, so they shouldn’t be able to use that as their mascot. It’s crossing a line. A symbol that can be offensive shouldn’t be a mascot. Racism is racism.””

    If a mascot were loosely based on stereotypes of any other ethnic, religious or gender identity, it would be obvious how tasteless and potentially racist these mascots would be. Imagine a NCAA team called the Meatheads, the Fairies or the Whities.

    Ultimately, it’s up to the NCAA to set these standards of respect, and teams that want to participate in lucrative postseason play will have to comply. Compliance with demonstrating respect to indigenous groups should be a fairly basic concept. Students or players who disagree need to take a class about colonization, and then they can come argue about political correctness.

    Allison Dumka is a political science senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

    Opposition to Indian mascots exaggerated

    Last month’s ruling by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees regarding the “”retiring”” of the school’s Native American mascot, Chief Illiniwek, bears witness to the absurdity of the PC movement.

    A mere five days after the board’s ruling, Chief Illiniwek was hurriedly laid to rest after more than 80 years as the university’s mascot – almost as if management at the large public university had nothing better to do.

    Eighty-one percent of those Native Americans surveyed in a 2002 poll revealed that they supported the use of Indian nicknames in amateur sports. Perhaps that’s because they are aware that fans and students at schools like Illinois and Florida State University tend to revere their mascots: At Florida State, home of Chief Osceola, university officials refer to the “”unconquered”” spirit of the Seminole tribe as an ideal to be emulated by all students at the school.

    It therefore would seem that, contrary to the prevailing opinion of the politically correct, FSU and others mean nothing but honor towards those native tribes whose spirit they seek to emulate.

    Of course, such reasoning, as well as the aforementioned poll, stand in stark contrast to the views promulgated by activists and special interests that have no legitimate say in the matter.

    For instance, among those organizations leading the charge to ban Chief Illiniwek were the National Education Association and Modern Languages Association. Yes, that’s right: Apparently we are to believe that the architects of the infamous “”MLA format”” have a real say in this matter. Why? Beats me.

    What about the NEA? What business does a self-gratifying labor union have meddling in matters of potential offense to Native Americans?

    Keen observes would note that one pertinent organization – namely the Peoria Indian tribe – opposes mascots such as Illiniwek. As the Peoria are living descendants of the Illiniwek tribe, it’s tough to argue against their view. But Peoria leaders stand in contrast to the majority of tribal leaderships with associated mascots. The Seminole tribe, for instance, approves of FSU’s Seminole mascot, and Seminole women even design a new outfit for the mascot every year.

    Whatever your views on the matter, there remains the question: why Indian mascots in the first place?

    Indians, like cowboys, are enduring symbols of Americana – yet in comparison to cowboys, Indian mascots are not nearly as satirized. The Dallas Cowboys’ mascot wears what seems like the largest ten-gallon hat on Earth and brandishes two toy pistols – even this die-hard Cowboys fan cringes at his blatant outlandishness. On the other hand, Google-image Chief Illiniwek or Chief Osceola and what you’ll find is a mascot that isn’t nearly as bastardized. Universities simply respect these mascots.

    Because the apparent majority of Native Americans are far too busy going about productive lives to care much about such a trifling matter, the degree to which Native Americans oppose Indian mascots appears to be highly exaggerated by groups whose collective voices are much louder than their numbers are strong.

    David Francis is a pre-business sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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