Fact and opinion on Illiniwek debate
Kirstin Wilcox's recent letter attempted to set the historical record on New Zealand Chiefs et al. straight and correct. I know nothing about New Zealand native symbols.
I, however, wish to correct some of Wilcox's statements:
There is not and never was an Illinois Confederation; it was and is the Illiniwek Confederation.
The Illiniwek Confederation is not extinct; The Peoria Tribe is alive and well with a reservation in Miami, Okla. Chief John Froman is a very active leader who has developed commerce and educational opportunities for the Peoria. The respect and expertise that he has in the Native American community is well known and he is the preeminent expert the state of Illinois calls on to evaluate sites like Cahokia Mounds and other Native American issues in Illinois.
A majority of the Illiniwek Confederation did not disappear due solely to disease from Europeans alone. Many other factors, including wars and conflicts among other Native Americans, led to the elimination of many tribes in the Illiniwek Confederation. It did not happen overnight but over a vast number of years.
Those are the facts. Here is my comment.
Chief Illiniwek embodies the attributes we value as a society, and 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.