Listen to this article

Oust reminders of Chief at UI

In this time of discarding hurtful historical symbols, the University of Illinois should do likewise. I have held football and basketball season tickets for 40 years.

At every halftime, after the band plays the “Three-in-One,” fans raise their arms and scream, “Chief.” This is because one part of what is played sounds like a stereotypical Indian war chant. It is obvious that, despite the absence of a dancing Indian impersonator, everyone can “see” the character in their mind’s eye.

Many argue that the character brought to mind is a positive tribute.

Research with Native American high school and college students (“Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 2008,” pages 208-218) demonstrates that, like nonnative people, some find the character positive, some negative, and some don’t care. However, regardless of their evaluation, after seeing or thinking about Indians as portrayed by either professional or college athletics programs (including “The Chief”), native students show reduced feelings of personal and community worth and reduced achievement-related possible selves. It is likely that this is due to invoking historical stereotypes in the absence of alternative contemporary examples and positive models.

This is a small, but not insignificant, example of the systemic racism that the university has most recently disavowed in its public statements. If those statements are to have any real meaning, they need to be accompanied by actions, even if those actions are costly. It is long past the time for the UI band to stop playing Indian war chants.