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Pros and Cons of Indian Names for Schools

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Pros for keeping Native American Names

v     Supporters of changing the name must face a cold fact: The survey results printed in Sports Illustrated this week dealt a body blow to the movement to change Indian nicknames, here and across the United States.

v     Unless activists can "move the numbers" in such surveys and until the anti-nickname side wins Indians' support, then the campaign to change nicknames may wither and die.

v     Unless nickname opponents can marshal broad grass-roots support among Indians, the cause is doomed.  Non-Indians, a majority of whom also are skeptical of the anti-nickname movement, simply will not believe the nicknames are offensive if a majority of Indians themselves dispute that claim.

v     The Sports Illustrated story made headlines because it gave a hard answer to an important question: Are Indian nicknames offensive to Indians, or are they not?

v     The answer is they are not - or at least a majority of Indian respondents told Sports Illustrated's surveyors that they're not offended by Indian team names or the Atlanta Braves' "tomahawk chop."

v     Why is that news a "body blow"? Because it shrinks nickname opponents' constituency. Opponents can't claim that the nicknames offend Indians or even a majority of Indians. Instead, the claim now can be only about 20 percent to 30 percent of Indians want professional teams (including the Washington Redskins) to stop using Indian nicknames.




Examples of Native American Mascots

      Chief Illiniwek has proudly and majestically represented the University and the State for almost 80 years.

      Since 1998, the Foundation has sought to utilize the presence of Chief Illiniwek to promote greater education and awareness of American Indian people, culture , tradition, and history to the students, alumni, and friends of the University of Illinois.

      It has been claimed that the use of any Native American tribal name is abusive to some individuals. However, numerous towns, states, villages, regions, and landmarks retain Native American names, many of which were originally chosen to honor the inhabitants that originally settled the areas.


      The term "Illiniwek" refers to "the complete human being-the strong, agile human body; the unfettered human intellect; the indomitable human spirit."


      Since the tradition's inception in 1926, there has been considerable support for the Chief by Native American leaders, including several that trace their lineage to the original Illini tribes.


      For 75 years, the Chief has been the symbol of the spirit of a great university and of our intercollegiate athletic teams, and as such is loved by the people of Illinois. The University considers the symbol to be dignified and has treated it with respect. His ceremonial dance is performed with grace and beauty.


      Chief Illiniwek embodies the attributes valued by alumni, students, and friends of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The tradition of the Chief is a link to our great past, a tangible symbol of an intangible spirit, filled with qualities to which a person of any background can aspire: goodness, strength, bravery, truthfulness, courage, and dignity.


      The Chief Illiniwek tradition can be transformed into an educational asset, to both the University and to the Native American community. Elevating the symbol of Chief Illiniwek provides an opportunity for the University to promote the attributes that have come to be identified with this tradition.

Designed by Timothy J. Plonsey