Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NY Times, and now, Sports Illustrated (again)

I'm not a reader of Sports Illustrated, in print or on-line, but a colleague pointed me to this article. Titled "Chief Concern: After resurfacing, Chief Illiniwek should stay retired," the article was posted Tuesday, October 30th.

It includes a link to an interview Sports Illustrated did with the last student (Dan Maloney) who dressed up as "chief illiniwek." Poor Dan. Sniff, sniff. (I say with sarcasm.) He can't play Indian at halftime anymore.

I wonder if he knows that Native people across the country were persecuted for doing our dances?

I wonder just how much he knows about the peoples he says he honors?!

I wonder if he knows that Native people wear shoes (moccasins)??!!

Do read the article. Last year when the mascot was retired, I felt quite optimistic about UIUC's growth, but I am now fearful that the 'free speech' argument means we'll see the mascot back at UIUC---not on the field---but in other non-sport spaces.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Teacher's Thoughts on "squaw" in 4th grade classroom

[Note: This post is here by mistake. My primary blog is called American Indians and Children's Literature. I write there two or three times a week. Obviously, the post below was meant for that blog. Rather than delete it, I'll leave it here (and post it there, too, as intended). It is my firm contention that children's books with stereotypes and bias about American Indians affirm and create the disposition in children to embrace things like "chief illiniwek."]

My post about "squaw" and "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" in historical fiction was much-discussed on YALSA (YALSA is an American Library Association listserv for young adult librarians). Most of the objections to my post were along these lines:

  • It is wrong to censor books.
  • That is what people said/thought at that time.
  • Books with this language provide 'teachable moments' that are invaluable.

I wondered why the word 'censor' entered the discussion. I didn't ask that it be taken off the shelf. I posed the ramifications of using books with such language in an elementary school classroom and NOT engaging students in critical discussion of such words and phrases. What I'm advocating is the selective use of books like Sign of the Beaver and Little House on the Prairie and Matchlock Gun. What grade level should they be used? I think they ought to be used in high school classes that teach history, or social justice, or in college classes for teachers and librarians.

Below are the words of a classroom teacher. They were submitted as a comment to my post about "squaw" and "the only good Indian..." The teacher was responding to a previous commenter (her initials are DS) who suggested teachers at every grade level have dialog's with their students, in which they discuss these kinds of words, across race, gender, sexuality, etc.


DS, I see what you are saying, however, I think there is a point where you don't continue to use the word, even in teaching about (improper) use of the word. By analogy, would you choose and then discuss books that called people "Kike", "Yid", "Spic", "Chink", at the 4th grade level (which is more or less the age and grade that Sign of the Beaver is for)? I can see having a discussion and comparison of that as a lesson for older kids, but I think at this level, their thinking is still too concrete for a full discussion and it is best to use other books for literature instruction. I've taught grades 3, 4 & 5 for over 10 years, so I think I have a handle on kids' thought processes. Middle or high school as a comparative study for combined literature and social studies or social psychology possibly. But not as reading instruction for elementary school. I'm not saying to avoid discussion of that sort by any means at the elementary level - saying that in my opinion reading of this book for reading instruction at the elementary level would not be the way to go.


If you're teaching in a 3rd/4th/5th grade classroom, and have used books like these, and have done significant---not cursory---work on these words and phrases and way of thinking, I'd love to hear from you!

Or, if you're in a middle, high school, or college classroom, and have used these books, I'd love to hear from you, too.

Or, if you're a teacher and want to reread Little House and write a response to it in light of my perspectives on it, I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

NY Times article on float fiasco

"The chief" fiasco nets us national news again...

It's the lead article on the NY Times Education page:

University Reverses Policy to Allow Mascots Return

The first line?

"Chief Illiniwek has not yet left campus."


Irony Abounds "Please no "mock" chiefs at Homecoming this year..."

The irony in what former "Chief" Steve Raquel says at his blog post, titled "Please no "mock chiefs at Homecoming this year" is beyond belief...

Here's some of what he says:

If you are going down to the game, what I do ask of people is that if you are drunk and happen to be wearing a goofy headdress, please do not attempt to do the dance. (or even if you aren't wearing a headdress) In our minds, it's demeaning and stupid. You look like a monkey and smell like one too. (I didn't mean to write that line, but it fit). I was there last weekend and saw it happening over and over again. I can see why the protesters thought we were being insensitive...because we were.

Your interpretation of the dance isn't fitting, it isn't respectful and it isn't helping the cause. For more than 80 years, the keepers of the tradition abide by strict rules of conduct on and off the field. We held the tradition in reverence and while the tradition is no more, it doesn't mean that your recreation is any better.

We've been on the reservation, we've seen the honor and elegance of the dance. Attempting to recreate it out of a drunken stupor is not what I or the other chiefs call respectful. It took us months of training of the body and the mind to get the dance right and it's proper place is on the field...not next to your keg.

Outrageous, eh?!